Seven stilted researchers compiling an encyclopedia in a New York townhouse find their benefactor growing increasingly more impatient at their laborious, unhurried pace. Meanwhile one of the compilers (Gary Cooper) finds he is hopelessly uninformed on his latest research subject, American slang, and hits the streets to learn firsthand about the topic. When he meets a sassy nightclub dancer (Barbara Stanwyck) on the run from her mobster boyfriend, he takes in the ideal study subject who transforms himself and the rest of the stodgy bachelors. Directed by Howard Hawks, Ball of Fire is a funny, amusing riff on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves with the type of quick, witty script that Billy Wilder and writing partner Charles Brackett would perfect in later years. Stanwyck is irresistible here and the film glows in her presence.
*** out of ****