Goodness Gracious: Plot in ‘Ball of Fire’

stanwyck Barbara Ball Of Fire
By  · Published on December 21st, 2017

Story and character balance in this Hawks gem.

Howard Hawks’ 1941 Ball of Fire looks the director’s strengths in the eye and says “why not both?” Hawks can craft an easy-going conversation with plenty of verve and colloquialisms, making that hyper-real dialogue that feels like what we’d say if we were only a little bit sharper. He’s also a plotting wizard, ready to coordinate threads like a master seamstress.

Analyzing this combination is Cristina Álvarez López & Adrian Martin’s video essay on the often under-appreciated Ball of Fire, in which slang and vocabulary play major roles.

Looking particularly at the case study of one complex scene, during which multiple plot point are affecting a group of people all conversing at once, López and Martin appreciate the circus act of tonal, emotional, and psychological balance needed to pull it off. Hawks keeps things zany but not so they explode, only drive us to a froth. Ball of Fire is great and this video helps me put my finger on why.

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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).