Screening Dates
  • September 7, 2023 7:00
35mm Print

A marvellous performance from Stanwyck, all snap, crackle, and pop … Hawks’s handling of the sparkling Brackett-Wilder script and its subversions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is pure joy.”

Tom Milne, Time Out

Barbara Stanwyck was Oscar-nominated for her fast-talking turn in this stellar screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and scripted by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. Stanwyck plays Sugarpuss O’Shea, a saucy cabaret singer on the lam from her gangster boyfriend. She takes refuge with eight eggheads compiling an encyclopedia. The professors have become stuck on the entry for slang”; Sugarpuss is just the person to teach them a thing or two on the subject! The great cast includes Gary Cooper (an Oscar winner the same year for Sergeant York) as a fusty linguist, and Dana Andrews and Henry Travers in supporting roles. Cinematographer Gregg Toland shot Citizen Kane the very same year. The 1948 musical A Song is Born, also directed by Hawks, was a Ball of Fire remake. Billy Wilder would hereafter become a Hollywood director himself, debuting with The Major and the Minor the next year.

This screening of Ball of Fire is occasioned by the forthcoming publication of Donald Brackett’s new book, Double Solitaire: The Films of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (Applause, 2024). Brackett will introduce the film.

Due to a rescheduled release date, copies of the book will no longer be available to purchase.

The writing is a marvel … Garbagemen and waiters, pool hall bums and showgirls, newsboys and college boys—they’re all virtuosos singing the wisecracking arias Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett have given them.”

Charles Taylor, Village Voice

Donald Brackett is a Vancouver-based culture critic, film curator, and journalist with an extensive history of art and literary media activity covering a diverse field of interests. He is the author of several books on popular culture, most recently Yoko Ono: An Artful Life (2022). In 2013, Brackett curated our series “Strange Magic: The Films of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.” He is a relative of Charles Brackett, who was his great great grandfather’s cousin on his father’s side.