BALL OF FIRE & REMEMBER THE NIGHT
Sunday, August 26
BALL OF FIRE
|12:30 4:30 8:40|
(1941, Howard Hawks) “Let’s get ourselves a couple drinks, light the fire maybe, and you can start working on me right away,” cheerfully suggests Barbara Stanwyck’s hotcha stripper “Sugarpuss” O’Shea to Gary Cooper’s Professor Hiram Potts. Of course, they’re just settling in for a research session for the slang section of the all-encompassing encyclopedia he and six other supremely unworldly professors have been slaving away at in their foundation-endowed brownstone for the last nine years. But what’s Stanwyck doing there? What better place to hole up when you’re on the run from both the D.A.’s men and her own “boyfriend,” Dana Andrew’s Joe Lilac, whose idea of sweet talk, according to henchman Dan Duryea, is “he gets more bang outta you than any dame he ever knew.” (How did they get this stuff past the censor?) Yes, it’s screenwriters Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (in-jokingly noted on a background movie marquee), with Stanwyck going on a wisecrack whirlwind and Cooper tossing off academic gobbledygook, as well as an almost painfully sincere declaration of love, with the great DP Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane) giving it all a surprisingly lustrous sheen – plus jazz legend Gene Krupa’s “Drum Boogie” solo… with matchsticks. 35mm. Approx. 111 min.
“SUPERBLY SMUTTY! With her Betty Page bangs, sequin hot pants, and a working knowledge of the conga, Stanwyck reliably electrifies the proceedings.”
– Heather Baysa, The Village Voice
“Pure joy! Stanwyck is all snap, crackle and pop!”
– Time Out (London)
“Cooper complained as the shooting went on that rapid, intellectual dialogue was a stretch for him… Yes the marvel about Cooper was that, just as in life the cowpoke could look like the most elegant man in Vanity Fair, so if he got comfortable with his lines, he could seem Ivy League or man of the West… Stanwyck is saucy, naughty, and as quick as a shortstop. The guys doing the dictionary are as fanciful as the gangsters. Indeed, there’s a cheerful attitude to the interchangeability of all human pursuits that foreshadows Some Like it Hot – especially if sex is kept in mind as number-one pursuit… Released days before Pearl Harbor, it was exactly the high-energy, blithe escapism that clicked with the war spirit in those first days. After all, what did the title mean, except that America in its innocent exuberance fired off entertaining explosions?
– David Thomson
REMEMBER THE NIGHT
(1940, Mitchell Leisen) Assistant New York D.A. Fred MacMurray gets shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck’s case postponed over the holiday season, then ends up bringing her back home to Indiana for Christmas. Preston Surges’ last script before his writer/director debut (with The Great McGinty in 1940), and one of his warmest, if satirical, portraits of small town Americana, complete with holiday barn dance – and that stopover in Niagara Falls. 35mm. Approx. 94 min.
“Circumstances paired stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in four pictures…this sweet-tart seriocomic fable is the achievement against which the others are measured…. The halls are decked with irresistible vibrations: whip-smart dialogue that cuts quickly and precisely.”
– Jaime N. Christley, The Village Voice
“A drama stated in the simple human terms of comedy and sentiment, tenderness and generosity. Its character drawing is deft and in splendid proportion… Rarely has a theme been so smoothly advanced and so pleasantly played out to so sensible and credible a conclusion… Miss Stanwyck has played the girl with grave understanding and charm, rounding out the character rather than stamping it out by stencil.”
– Frank Nugent, The New York Times
“The loose, graceful script is by Preston Sturges, and it partakes of a softness and nostalgia that seldom surfaced in his own films. Leisen serves the material very well with his slightly distanced, glowing style.”
– Dave Kehr
“A winning romantic comedy-drama from the ever-elegant Leisen, who elicits a superb performance from Stanwyck… Playing superbly on the personae of his leads, Leisen creates a movie of warmth and immense style, which never quite trips over into excessive sentimentality.”
– Geoff Andrew, Time Out (London)
“It is acknowledged that [Stanwyck’s] character, Lee Leander, is hot, that she knows about sex, that she’s not a good girl, and yet she’s not vulgar or tainted or soiled or bitter. She is sexy and good-hearted and smart. Sturges allows her to be all of these things and somehow it brings Barbara’s own persona together in a way that is light and appealing, buoyant and still full of substance… In the hands of Sturges and Leisen, the pace is light and up. Barbara is full of vitality and quick on her feet, and she blazes.”
– Victoria Wilson, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940