Ball of Fire (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

Ball of Fire (1941)



Critic Consensus: A splendidly funny twist on the story of Snow White, Ball of Fire boasts a pair of perfect leads in Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.

Ball of Fire Photos

Movie Info

Professor Bertram Potts is the youngest of eight bookish academics assembling a dictionary of slang. They find a perfect "research associate" in the curvaceous form of strip-tease dancer Kathryn "Sugar Puss" O'Shea, who has hidden out at the professors' domicile to escape Joe Lilac, her gangster boyfriend. As Sugar Puss interprets various slang expressions, she and the professors grow quite fond of one another. She brings their personalities out from under their collegiate facades, while they revive her essential decency and genial womanhood. When Joe and his enforcer Duke Pastrami show up to claim Kathryn, the professors save the day.

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Gary Cooper
as Prof. Bertram Potts
Barbara Stanwyck
as Sugarpuss O'Shea
Oscar Homolka
as Prof. Gurkakoff
Henry Travers
as Prof. Jerome
S.Z. Sakall
as Prof. Magenbruch
Tully Marshall
as Prof. Robinson
Leonid Kinskey
as Prof. Quintana
Richard Haydn
as Prof. Oddly
Aubrey Mather
as Prof. Peagram
Allen Jenkins
as Garbage Man
Dana Andrews
as Joe Lilac
Dan Duryea
as Duke Pastrami
Mary Field
as Miss Totten
Ralph Peters
as Asthma Anderson
Kathleen Howard
as Miss Bragg
Charles Arnt
as McNeary
as Fissette
Al Rhein
as Horseface
Eddie Foster
as Pinstripe
Will Lee
as Benny
Aldrich Bowker
as Justice of the Peace
Addison Richards
as District Attorney
Kenneth Howell
as College Boy
Tommy Ryan
as Newsboy
Ed Mundy
as Spieler
Ken Howell
as College Boy
June Horne
as Nursemaid at Park
Geraldine Fissette
as Hula Dancer
Ethelreda Leopold
as Nursemaid at Park
George Barton
as Garbage Man
Walter Shumway
as Garbage Man
Otto Hoffman
as Stage Doorman
Doria Caron
as Girl in Subway
Merrilee Lannon
as Girl in Subway
Catherine Henderson
as College Girl
Helen Seamon
as College Girl
Mark Collver
as Fighting Bum
Mildred Morris
as Chorus Girl
Gerald Pierce
as Delivery Boy
Francis Sayles
as Taxi Driver
Lorraine Miller
as Girl in Cafe
Chet DeVito
as Tollkeeper
Lee Phelps
as Policeman in Station
Ken Christy
as Cop With Miss Bragg
Del Lawrence
as Irish Gardener
Eddy Chandler
as Cop on Garbage Truck
Dick Rush
as Policeman at Motor Inn
Johnnie Morris
as Justice of the Peace's Clerk
Edward Clark
as Motor Court Proprietor
Gene Krupa
as Orchestra Leader
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News & Interviews for Ball of Fire

Critic Reviews for Ball of Fire

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (8)

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.

December 22, 2015 | Full Review…

Actor Cooper plays his Mr. Deeds role with the authority of long familiarity, and Miss Stanwyck (once Ruby Stevens, of Brooklyn) is equally at home in hers.

February 4, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Casting is meticulously perfect to make every character a caricature of itself.

August 14, 2007 | Full Review…

A delight.

August 14, 2007 | Full Review…

After the rush of His Girl Friday, Ball of Fire is a more sedate ride, full of such marvelous passages as the conga line Stanwyck's delectable Sugarpuss teaches the professors.

May 24, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Pure joy.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Ball of Fire


Gary ("aw shucks m'am!") Cooper leads a collection of every eccentric nerd uncle character actor ever as they attempt to understand how 40's swell cats canoodled the English language through the cypher of OMG sweltering Barbara Stanwyck. Heat ensues, and how! Big fun tiger.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

A grammarian who is toiling away at an encyclopedia meets a nightclub singer who teaches him slang. In the Hollywood's mind, making a film often involved merely pairing the two right movie stars, actors who would look good together and whose respective markets would overlap. To a large extent, that's even true now (e.g. You've Got Mail and Runaway Bride are re-hashes of couples that worked well in the past). It's like multimillion-dollar I suspect that's the thinking that went into Ball of Fire. The story is trite and cliche. It's re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [sic] -- how cliched can you get? But Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck are delightful, rapping their dialogue in a staccato that often makes classics classic. Overall, it's a fun diversion and easy to predict, but there's a lot to like about Ball of Fire.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


Not only is this movie hilarious, unique, and witty, but you learn a lot about slang words too. This movie is really fun, great cast and story and everything, I loved it, and I highly recommend it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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