[[quoteright:325:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ball_of_fire__1941_520.jpg]]

->''Once upon a time -- in 1941 to be exact -- there live 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...''
-->-- '''Title card'''

A 1941 ScrewballComedy about eight professors who are trying to compile the world's largest encyclopedia. Realizing his books on slang are out of date, English Professor Bertram Potts (Creator/GaryCooper) leaves the communal library/house where they work to find research material.

There he meets nightclub performer Sugarpuss O'Shea (Creator/BarbaraStanwyck), who needs a place to hide from the cops so she can't testify against her boyfriend: mobster Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews). She stays with Potts and uses his affection for her to her advantage. Naturally, she falls InLoveWithTheMark and HilarityEnsues.

From a script by prolific Hollywood writer Creator/BillyWilder and directed by Creator/HowardHawks with a score by Music/AlfredNewman. Nominated for three UsefulNotes/{{Academy Award}}s, including Best Actress and best story.

Remade as the 1948 {{Musical}} film ''Film/ASongIsBorn''.
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!!Tropes found in Ball of Fire include:
* {{Adorkable}}:
** Bertram. He acts like learning new slang is SeriousBusiness, talks with SesquipedalianLoquaciousness a lot (even about his feelings towards Sugar), admits how aroused he is by Sugarpuss by having to wash his neck with cold water whenever he sees the sunlight in her hair, not to mention running out of the room after being kissed by her to do the latter, too. He also seems to be so devoted to his work (or just struggles to put on a suit), Sugarpuss notes that he always has his waistcoat buttoned up wrong every time she's seen him.
** The other professors, particularly through their obsessions over their work, and their lack of social skills around Sugarpuss, slightly admiring her like they'd never seen a woman in their lives.
* ApronMatron: Miss Bragg.
* BadassBookworm: the professors and Bertram, when it comes time [[TookALevelInBadass to take a step up]].
* {{Burlesque}}: If they ever remake this film, Sugarpuss will probably be a stripper.
* CampStraight: Professor Oddly is a rather mannered and slightly effeminate old gentleman (presumably due to having come of age in a more formal era), but he's the only one of the professors to have any previous romantic experience with women.
* ChekhovsGunman: The professors, sans Bertram.
* ChickMagnet: Bertram, who is unable to notice that not only Sugarpuss is interested in him, but Miss Totten as well, considering how nervous she acts whenever they talk to each other.
* ClingyJealousGirl: Miss Bragg (in a non-romantic way) becomes cold towards the professors when she discovers that Sugarpuss is living with them, [[NotBigEnoughForTheTwoOfUs even threatening to resign from being their housekeeper]]. Bertram refuses to evict Sugarpuss, but Miss Bragg continues working, with some of the professors calling her bluff. She discovers Sugarpuss' true identity when she "accidentally" searches through her luggage, confronting her when she walks in the room.
* DaddysGirl: Miss Totten. Her father died prior to movie events and was the brainchild to the encyclopedia project. She would do anything to help the professors get their research finished, but regretfully attempts to cancel it once she discovers that they've become preoccupied with the Sugarpuss scenario.
* DefrostingIceKing: Bertram. This is mostly down to his interactions with Sugarpuss, who manages to turn him from reserved to open. He sternly admits that he's attracted to her but then calms himself down, however, this is soon changed once Sugarpuss plants a few kisses on him, turning him into a relaxed man that's smitten for a nightclub performer.
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: Sugarpuss's habit of saying "on account of because", much to Bertram's annoyance. She reads his books and correctly diagnoses this as a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleonasm pleonasm]].
* {{Expy}}: The other seven professors for [[Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs the seven dwarfs]]. Lilac even calls them this, making Sugarpuss correct him with "eight".
* EverybodyCallsHimBarkeep: Sugarpuss' real name is Katherine. We don't find this out until she is facing the priest with Lilac. It also makes one wonder whether Bertram and the professors even know (and/or ever find out) her real name.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: There is a brief moment of Sugarpuss dabbing the back of her neck with a cool flannel after kissing the smitten and newly-consensual Bertram, hinting that strong feelings for him are developing, despite being engaged to someone else.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar:
** One of the professors devoted their work to sex education, and even refers to it ''by name'' in a 1940s' movie, which might shock modern audiences.
** Bertram stating that he often dabs the back of his neck with a cool flannel to calm himself down from his attraction to Sugarpuss goes into the DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything territory.
* GibberishOfLove: Bertram stammers and averts his eyes a few times when he asks Sugarpuss to kiss him again.
* GrammarNazi: Bertram, being the grammarian in the encyclopedia group. He particularly likes to harp on the split infinitive rule, that favorite of pedants. Later in the film, his passion for Sugarpuss loosens his grip on grammar.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: All eight of the professors live together in a mansion where they keep their work. This is possibly due to the urgency of having their encyclopedia finished so they don't have to leave their homes to go to work.
* InLoveWithTheGangstersGirl: Bertram. [[spoiler:Since this is a comedy, he gets the girl instead of getting a bullet between the eyes]].
* InLoveWithTheMark: Sugarpuss, much to her own surprise.
* LeaveTheTwoLovebirdsAlone: The other professors drag Professor Oddly out of the room when he tries to tell Sugarpuss and Bertram to take it slow.
* LuminescentBlush: Bertram blushes "right up over his ears" when he's embarrassed, according to Sugarpuss, which is one of the things she likes about him. This is more of a TakeOurWordForIt, since the film is monochrome, so we don't know how she discovered this. She more likely discovered this when:
** She passionately kissed him thrice when she was showing him what a "yum-yum" was, making him rush out of the room to calm himself down;
*** Also, when he shyly asked her to kiss him again through stammering;
** All the times he was admitting how smitten he was with her, or when he was acting smitten around her;
** Possibly all of the above.
* MsFanservice: Sugarpuss, especially in her stage costume, which has a skirt that flashes her long legs.
* MundaneMadeAwesome: The professors' improvising skills to stop Sugarpuss' marriage to Lilac, such as knocking out a gangster with a microscope and a painting, while distracting him with their knowledge on their studies.
* NerdsAreSexy: Sugarpuss soon realises that she has feelings for Bertram and lists all of his anti-social traits that she finds endearing to Joe Lilac when she's trying to tell him that she doesn't love him anymore.
* NiceGuy: All the professors. It's the reason why Sugarpuss feels guilty when she's planning to ditch them to return to her life as a gangster's moll.
* NoSocialSkills: Bertram is portrayed as the most surprising of them all (despite the rest of the professors being like this) because he's the youngest.
** The surprise on people's faces when they see him eavesdropping on their conversations in the street, as well as one nightclub employee assuming he was joking when he asked what a "boogie" was, shows this entirely.
** Also, he tells Sugarpuss how much he has a crush on her, down to the most explicit detail of dabbing himself with a cold flannel to calm himself down. Sugarpuss is flattered.
* OneHeadTaller: Even in heels, Sugarpuss needs to stand on a couple of reference books to kiss Bertram.
* ObliviousToLove: Bertram at first.
* SeriousBusiness: The professors need to have their encyclopedia as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If not, they will be fired by Miss Totten, the daughter of a dead former colleague.
* SeriouslyScruffy: Bertram, who is focused on the encyclopedia with his other colleagues doesn't have time to worry about how his suit looks. Sugarpuss comments that he always has his waistcoat buttoned wrong and how endearing she finds it.
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: All of the professors. Parodied when Bertram, who needs to stall for time to get the drop on a couple of {{mooks}}, launches into a long lecture that consists of a lot of gibberish, but with very fancy words.
* SettleItWithoutWeapons: Sort of. After the good guys have already captured the bad guys and the cops are on the way, a thoroughly pissed-off Bertram gives his gun to one of the other professors and challenges Joe Lilac to a fistfight.
* [[ShoutOut/ToShakespeare Shout-Out: To Shakespeare]]: Bertram quotes ''Theatre/RichardIII'' when giving Sugarpuss the engagement ring. The monologue he quotes is written on the inside of the ring.
* SixIsNine: A poorly secured 9 on the front door of a motel cabin falls over and becomes a 6. This causes Bertram to enter the wrong cabin and accidentally pour his heart out to Sugar about her in the darkness.
* SocietyMarchesOn: [[invoked]] After hearing the local binman talking to the professors, Bertram notices that his slang is completely different to the slang he wrote about weeks before, which means that Bertram's hard work was useless (arguably, in his eyes), so he decides to leave for the city for research.
* SpeakNowOrForeverHoldYourPeace: Lilac and Sugarpuss' arranged wedding is soon interrupted by the professors, all armed with guns, to rescue Sugarpuss.
* TheTease: Sugarpuss, towards Bertram.
** To convince him to allow her to live in the mansion, she takes off her heels and [[ShesGotLegs stretches out her leg]] to him to feel how cold and wet her feet are from the rain.
** Then much later, after Bertram admits that he becomes aroused whenever the sunlight sits on her hair, she rushes across the room and stands in front of a sunny window, leaving Bertram in a stammering mess.
** The page image summarizes this dynamic too.
* ThirdActMisunderstanding: Sugarpuss fails to tell Bertram that she's already engaged when he gives her a ring at breakfast, because she is called on the telephone. The professors convince Bertram to try and meet her parents before choosing a wedding date, so Bertram takes the phone from Sugarpuss to talk to her father, ironically being fiance Lilac (in disguise) arranging to smuggle her out of their house. This leads to the team getting ambushed by the gangsters at a hotel, with Bertram discovering that Sugarpuss was already preparing to get married behind his back. He breaks up with Sugarpuss in her room, leaving her sobbing on her bed.
* TickleTorture: The professors uses this (with a feather) on Pastrami, one of Joe Lilac's {{mooks}}, to get him to say where Lilac is going to (try to) marry Sugarpuss. It works.
* TitleDrop: A newspaper headline refers to Sugarpuss as the "ball of fire" the professors unknowingly smuggled past the cops.
* TookALevelInBadass: All of the professors near the end, and Bertram in particular.
* UptightLovesWild: Sugarpuss the burlesque performer throws a wrench into the life of cloistered professor Bertram.
* VerbalTic: Sugarpuss' clicking of her tongue. Becomes an IronicEcho at the end of the movie when the professors do it.
* WhyCantIHateYou: Sugarpuss slowly realises that she is enjoying her stay with the professors, despite manipulating them so that she can betray them and elope with her gangster boyfriend. She struggles to try and tell them her true intentions, and cannot bring herself to write them a letter explaining why she's ditched them at the hotel when she and Bertram were supposed to get married.
** More importantly, she cannot bring herself to loathe Bertram, because he's a nice and innocent man that's trying to get his work done. When she's convincing Joe that she loves Bertram, she lists all of his shortcomings and anti-social traits that she finds endearing, from his dated fashion sense to how easily she can make him blush.
* WilliamTelling: The professors get a gangster to stay seated in a chair by challenging him to hit a coin held by one of them in his fingers, so that they could knock him unconscious with a painting hanging above his seat.
* ZipMeUp: Sugarpuss asks the professors to zip up her skirt. Consternation predictably ensues.
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