Director: Howard Hawks
Writers: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, and I.A.L. Diamond, story by Harry Segal
Stars: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe
The Story: A scatterbrained chemist invents a rejuvenating formula that makes him and his wife act like fun-seeking kids.
How it Came to be Underrated: I have no idea why this movie is not as well known as the other collaborations between Hawks and Grant. Look at that cast! Look at those writers! You would think that the only reason it could not be well known is if it were terrible, but it’s hilarious!
Why It’s Great:
- Scientific potions, chimp mix-ups, a buxom blonde secretary… This is the movie that you picture in your mind when you think “zany old comedy”, but you didn’t actually think that it existed. It almost feels like it must be an SCTV pastiche of a late night movie.
- Obviously it’s no accident that this is the third Rogers movie I’ve featured (and still no Astaire in sight) I’m a big fan. It’s great to see any older comedienne get to play a real romantic lead: funny, sexy and wise, all at the same time.
- It’s nice to see an older Grant not paired with a much younger girl for once. In fact this movie celebrates the value of growing old together and ridicules the prospect of older men chasing after Monroe. From this point on, however, Grant would be unironically paired with younger and younger ingénues, from Audrey Hepburn to Sophia Loren.
- Both Grant and Rogers get a chance to act like crazy teenagers, but the notion of teenager-hood was somewhat new in 1952 and there were still a few glitches in the formula: this was almost certainly the last year in which wild-eyed young men cheesed off adults by getting super-short haircuts.
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: Hawks and Grant’s best collaboration was His Girl Friday. Another underrated Hawks comedy was Ball of Fire.
How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD, but the packaging and menus feel the need to pretend that the whole thing is a Marilyn Monroe vehicle.
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I'd love to hear your views on "Ball of Fire." I liked it tremendously but felt that it 'jumped the track' (or the 'shark'!) in Act 3 in a way that kept me from lauding it as highly as I wanted to.
I keep meaning to do Ball of Fire. I suppose I'd agree that the third act is a little weaker, but that's often true for Hawks movies (Billy Wilder movies too)
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