Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Scholar and the Tramp

Ball of Fire (1941) on IMDb

Plot Overview

citizensA City of New York Dept. of Sani­tation garbage man, played by Allen Jenkins, approaches the Daniel S. Totten Foundation on his route to get help with “the quiz­zola on the radio.” Author Ward Larsen says, “municipal garbage workers were … natural visitors to every corner of a city, and notoriously poorly compensated” (269.) This one wanted to pick up some smackaroos on the quiz show. Inside the foundation he finds, surrounded by books, eight cutting edge scholars, an enclave of unmarried men, laboring on an encyclopedia project—they're up to the letter ‘S’. In the course of answering his questions, gram­marian Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) realizes his article on slang is hope­lessly out of date. Since he's under pressure to “wrap it up,” he decides to do some field research at night.

He passes his card out to various slang-savvy denizens of the Big Apple inviting them to a pow wow in the morning. Bon vivant night­club diva Katherine “Sugar­puss” O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), needing to hole up from the police, shows up at the professor's door figuring that's one place the cops won't look. She is a veritable treasure trove of slang. She's also able to expand the professor's experiential knowledge.


In 1st Corinthians Paul tells us that we can compromise with the heathen in the work­place—Criswell Study Bible preface to First Corinthians: “Some Christians needed to know whether or not they should attend the meetings of their trade guild, meetings held in the idol temples and involving meat offered to the idols (1Cor. 8:1-13)”—as long as we're doing it in faith and not stumbling some­one. On that basis Prof. Potts was justified going to a night­club where the orchestra played boogie woogie. He was doing necessary research.

This is different from the instance where Jerry Lee Lewis (cousin of Jimmy Swaggart) in his Bible school days was the piano player for the church choir. They kicked him out of Bible school for playing the boogie woogie version of the hymns. The two genres didn't mix well. Paul tells Christians: (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” Note the plural pronoun ye. Webster defines, “ye pron you 1 — used orig. only as a plural pronoun of the second person in the subjective case and now used esp. in ecclesiastical or literary language and in various English dialects.” We are forbidden to integrate heathen practices into our church in the aggregate, though as individual believers we are allowed to rub shoulders with unbelievers in various places as long as we remain detached from their idolatry or whatever.

In 1941 when this movie was made, if we discount the not popular ASB of 1901, all we had in English was the King James Version (KJV of 1611. These professors having encyclopedic knowledge of English, Greek, and history would not have tripped up on the pronoun's case and would have corrected any­one who did. They took to correcting split infinitives, after all, and even Sugar­puss in her self-study was working on avoiding pleonasms. We need to take care not to project back onto them our own lazy grammar and accommodating Bible translations.

The ambit of knowledge the professors were immersed in could be represented by (Prov. 9:1-6):

Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth under­standing, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Note that Wisdom “hath sent forth her maidens,” here Prof. Potts to the night­club. This sending forth of wisdom can consequently some­times result in romantic liaisons between a Christian and a non–. The Apostle Paul allows for such mixed marriages (1Cor. 7:12-15.) Since marriage is necessarily between individuals, his prohibition against mixtures in the aggregate would not apply.

(Sirach 9:4) “Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts.” This warning from an apocryphal wisdom book would seem to apply here. Fortunately, the professors had plenteous chaperonage.

The happy couple did receive interference from another source, but it looks like it would succumb to, (Prov. 16:18) “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Production Values

” (1941) was directed by Howard Hawks. Its screen­play was from an original story of Billy Wilder (and Thomas Monroe), “From A to Z,” originally in German but Americanized by his writing partner Charles Brackett. It takes after Walt Disney's earlier movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The seven older professors can be mapped directly onto Disney's dwarves. It stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck is flawless as a steely Sugarpuss O'Shea, and a young Gary Cooper held his own playing against the strong, silent type. The supporting cast did an amazing job.

Its ratings are Certificate: Approved, United States, Passed (The National Board of Review), TV G (TV rating). Australia: PG, G (TV rating). United Kingdom: PG (TV rating.) Stanwyck lit up the screen with her “Drum Boogie” night­club number. Gene Krupa and his orchestra gave a rousing performance, too. The dialogue was at times replete with dated slang that an American English speaker can appreciate from his past. The professors seemed knowledgeable. One's remark about “Ions from the sun affect temperature” even presages the cyclical global cooling we are about to enter.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I found it fast paced and funny, but it included serious romantic material as well. I'd classify it as a surefire winner.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with a tad of guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Some suspenseful sequences. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print,

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

Larsen, Ward. Assassin's Run. New York: Tom Doherty, 2018. Print.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: MERRIAM-WEBSTER. 1984. Print.