Skip to content
The Whitsell Auditorium and the Northwest Film Center Equipment Room are closed to the public in an effort to further stem the spread of COVID-19. All classes canceled until further notice. Stay connected to art, film, and more by signing up for our newsletter.

Directed by Howard Hawks

United States 1941 111 mins In English

In this atypical Hawksian broad comedy, a group of nebbish roommate-intellectuals—led by young man of the group Bertram Potts (the perfectly-cast Gary Cooper)—are working on a new dictionary that aims to incorporate the language of the day, which they have next to no experience with. Enlisting the nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck in one of her finest roles), Bertram and the dictionarians learn the latest lingo in fits and starts, while Sugarpuss hides from her power-crazy mob-boss boyfriend Joe Lilac. From a winning script (loosely based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) by long-time collaborators Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett and produced by golden-touch Samuel Goldwyn, Ball of Fire is the rare box-office smash that’s only grown in stature as the years wear on.

Ball of Fire came out five days before Pearl Harbor. You can imagine Americans listening to its flood of slang and knowing exactly what they were fighting for.  Charles Taylor, The Village Voice

Genres: Comedy



The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.