Ball of Fire

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Ball of Fire is a 1941 screwball comedy film about a nightclub singer who lands herself in the New York home of a group of professors compiling an encyclopedia. She is trying to hide from the police to avoid testifying against her mobster boyfriend.

Directed by Howard Hawks. Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, based on "From A to Z" by Thomas Monroe and Billy Wilder.
I LOVE HIM because he doesn't know how to kiss -- THE JERK!taglines

Sugarpuss O'Shea[edit]

  • [about the professors' workroom] Say, who decorated this place? The mug that shot Lincoln?
  • Who is that guy who learned so much from watching an apple drop?
  • [about Potts] Yes, I love him. I love those hick shirts he wears with the boiled cuffs and the way he always has his vest buttoned wrong. Looks like a giraffe, and I love him. I love him because he's the kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. Love him because he doesn't know how to kiss, the jerk!

Professor Bertram Potts[edit]

  • We're working under pressure. After nine years of effort, we are, as the race track enthusiast might say, in the home stretch. Three more years and our encyclopedia will be finished. Let's not bog down in the middle of the letter S.
  • [to Sugarpuss] I shall regret the absence of your keen mind. Unfortunately, it is inseparable from an extremely disturbing body.
  • Sugarpuss, uh, before you go, would you... would you, eh, yum me just once more?

Joe Lilac[edit]

  • You know, I was kinda counting on Sugarpuss to tell ya the score. Trouble is, she's all right givin' out with the twists and the wisecracks, but when it comes to leveling off she gets chicken.


  • Miss Bragg: That is the kind of woman that makes whole civilizations topple!
  • Professor Gurkakoff: [discovering Sugarpuss gave back the wrong ring] The subconscious never makes a mistake. She gave you the ring she didn't want - his ring - and she kept the one she wanted - yours.
  • Professor Magenbruch: Maybe my data on sex is a little outdated, too.


Professor Potts: I've just finished my article on slang. Twenty-three pages compiled from a dozen reference books. Eight hundred examples. Everything from the idiotic combination "absotively" to the pejorative use of "zigzag." I traced the evolution of "hunky dory," tracked down "skiddo" from "skedaddle." Eight hundred examples and I may as well throw it in the waste basket. Three weeks' work.
Professor Robinson: Potts, you're hysterical.
Professor Potts: Outmoded. Based on reference books 20 years old. Take "smooch." Take "dish." Take...
Professor Oddly: Hoytoytoy?
Professor Potts: Hoytoytoy. Not one of them included. Living in this house cut off from the world, I've lost touch. And it's inexcusable! That man talked a living language. I embalmed some dead phrases.
Professor Gurkakoff: But where are you going?
Professor Potts: Out to collect new data, to tap the sources of slang, the major sources. The streets. The slums. The theatrical and allied professions.
Professor Robinson: Oh, now, Potts, don't you think that...
Professor Potts: I know it's regrettable, this loss of time, gentlemen, but it must be done. Leave the key under the mat. I won't be home before 9 o'clock.

Professor Potts: Young man, what is the name of that young lady?
Waiter: Sugarpuss O'Shea.
Professor Potts: An astounding specimen.
Waiter: She jives by night. Root, zoot and cute and solid to boot.

Sugarpuss O'Shea: [mistaking Bertram for a police dick come to take her downtown] Hey, how many of you are on this job?
Professor Potts: Uh, the entire project? Eight.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: Oh. The other seven waiting outside?
Professor Potts: Oh, no. They're at home sound asleep, I imagine.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: Asleep?
Professor Potts: Yes, they go to bed at nine every night.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: You mean to tell me with crime what it is in New Yor... Say, are you a bull or aren't you?
Professor Potts: Well, if "bull" is a slang word for professor, then I'm a bull.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: A professor?
Professor Potts: Of English.

Joe Lilac: Having some trouble, Mr. D.A.?
District Attorney: Oh, don't worry, Joe. And don't underestimate this office or the State of New York. I've got some boys that can find a needle in a haystack.
Joe Lilac: Oh, that's a cinch. All you have to do is get a horse to eat the hay and then x-ray the horse.

Sugarpuss O'Shea: You, uh, you don't think we could sort of begin the beguine right now?
Professor Potts: Well, it's, uh, nearly one o'clock, Miss O'Shea.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: Oh, foo, professor. And let's get ourselves a couple drinks, light the fire maybe, and you can start working on me right away.
Professor Potts: Well, I wouldn't think of imposing on you at this hour.
Sugarpuss O'Shea: Listen, I figured on working all night.

Professor Potts: What're you gonna do?
Sugarpuss O'Shea: I'm going to show you what yum-yum is. Here's yum. [kisses him] Here's the other yum. [kisses him again] And here's yum-yum. [gives a long kiss that knocks him backwards onto a chair]

Professor Potts: Before we attempt to get back to work, I'd like to say a few words. You've been very kind and very tactful. If I may say so, over-tactful. The entire ride home in the car you avoided a certain subject to make empty conversation. Now let's have it out. I made an ass of myself and I know it.
Professor Jerome: Oh, well, we all have, Potts.
Professor Potts: Yes, but I was the lead donkey.

Joe Lilac: [as the professors draw guns on Joe and his men] What is this?
Professor Oddly: I believe... I think it is known as an "up-stick."


  • I LOVE HIM because he doesn't know how to kiss -- THE JERK!
  • The New Year's red-hot comedy!
  • The riotous but tender comedy of a slang-hunter professor, baffled by the words, but a sucker for the wiles of a hot-spot Queen of Jive who used his study as a hide-out!
  • Riotous but tender comedy of a professor so anxious to learn the slang pf a hep-cat queen that she puts his heart in a sling!
  • [After the opening credits] Once upon a time—in 1941 to be exact—there lived in a great, tall forest—called New York--eight men who were writing an encyclopedia. They were so wise they knew everything. The depth of the oceans, and what makes a glowworm glow, and what tune Nero fiddled while Rome was burning. But there was one thing about which they knew very little--as you shall see...


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