Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ball of Fire (1941) vs. The Lady Eve (1941)


Both screwball comedies feature Barbara Stanwyck as a woman who falls in love whilst deceiving a gullible man. (SPOILERS)

Ball of Fire
The rap sheet.
Ball of Fire has a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. It received Oscar nominations for Best Actress, Best Original Story, Best Dramatic Score, and Best Sound Recording. The Lady Eve also has a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story and made the National Board of Review's top 10 films of 1941 list.
Winner: Ball of Fire

The setup.
In The Lady Eve, a card shark named Jean (Stanwyck) and her father target Charles (Henry Fonda), a young and innocent millionaire, on a cruise. In Ball of Fire, a mob-connected singer known as Sugarpuss (Stanwyck) tricks Bertram (Gary Cooper), a bumbling professor, and his colleagues into letting her stay with them to help complete their encyclopedia.
Winner: The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve
The execution.
Both are full of gags and snappy dialogue. Ball of Fire depends upon the professors' ignorance for much of the laughs, which pays off greatly, but the romance doesn't contribute much to the fun. In The Lady Eve, the laughs come from the romance that develops out of sly trickery, and there is plenty of slapstick in the second half of the film.
Winner: The Lady Eve

The ending.
In The Lady Eve, Jean and Charles fall head over heels into each other's arms, despite the man's bewilderment at her true identity. In Ball of Fire, the professors rescue Sugarpuss from her gangster boyfriend, and Bertram convinces her to stay with them.
Winner: The Lady Eve

The wild card.
Ball of Fire benefits from the presence of multiple character actors, such as Henry Travers, S.Z. Sakall, and Leonid Kinskey. The Lady Eve also has some great character actors, in the form of Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and William Demarest. Both films owe some of their success to these actors.
Winner: The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve
Winner: The Lady Eve beats Ball of Fire 4-1

Ratings, by the way: Ball of Fire - ****, The Lady Eve - ****

6 comments:

  1. These are two of my favorite films of 1941! They are just fantastic all around, but Stanwyck is sensational in both films. I too prefer The Lady Eve, ever so slightly, but I was really impressed with Cooper in Ball of Fire, considering that I usually find him rather stiff. In fact, I thought that Cooper was better than Fonda was in Lady Eve, but the premise of The Lady Eve is just so great and works itself through so wonderfully! Great pairing :-D

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    1. Yay! As much as I love Stanwyck in Ball of Fire, she was just phenomenal in The Lady Eve. I prefer Fonda to Cooper, but I enjoyed both of their performances. Also, I prefer The Lady Eve by a wider margin. I loved every minute Stanwyck and Fonda were on screen together, and the supporting cast was great. Eugene Pallette calling for his breakfast is one of my favorite scenes ever.

      Thanks! :)

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  2. Some very interesting comparisons! I just bookmarked your blog... would be back for more. It's always a pleasure to meet a fellow cinephile... just crawled over from Shantanu's blogsite. Btw, here's the link to my blog:

    http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/

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    1. Thanks! I stopped by your blog earlier, and you've got a nice setup there. I've added you to my blogroll, and I'll try to stop by more. Thanks again!

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  3. I've seen so many of Stanwyck's lesser films and her iconic Double Indemnity, yet have yet to see those two. Ugh, I need to get to it ASAP.
    Obviously, I didn't read through this entire entry because I wanted to avoid spoilers, but I will be sure to check back once I get around to seeing these two films.

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    1. Thanks! Sorry about the spoilers. The main reason I mentioned that is because I give away the ending to both films in one section. Hope you enjoy them whenever you get to them.

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