In Howard Hawk’s Ball of Fire from 1941, a group of otherworldly scholars inhabit a gloomy New York townhouse, home of the Totten Foundation, where for nine years they have toiled away on a mammoth encyclopedia. Gary Cooper plays their leader, the linguist Bertram Potts who is working on an entry on slang. Realizing that his examples are hopelessly outmoded, he ventures out to gather material and chances upon a swank nightclub, where Barbara Stanwyck as the singer “Sugarpuss” O’Shea is the star attraction backed by Gene Krupa’s big band. With Krupa unleashing glorious mayhem behind his drum kit, she sings Drum Boogie,” while the professor scribbles away on his notepad words like “Boogie” and “Killer Diller.” For an encore, Krupa performs his drum routine on a matchbox while Sugarpuss whispers the...


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