Friday, December 2, 2011

“Don't tell me the jive session has beat off without baby!”


Seventy years ago on this date, the Howard Hawks-directed (and Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett-scripted) Ball of Fire premiered in movie theaters, and there’s an interesting backstory about the essay that I wrote to commemorate the occasion at Edward Copeland on Film…and More.  Ed had originally planned to tackle it himself, but the DVD of the movie, released by MGM Home Video in 2007, is now OOP—they want $77.98 for a new copy over at Amazon.com, a tariff that is a little beyond Mr. Copeland’s budget.  (Or anyone’s budget, for that matter.)  A search to see if it was going to turn up on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ also yielded no results.

Fortunately, I already owned a copy of this—when it was released by HBO Video in 1998—and so I agreed to take on the assignment…it gave me a chance to revisit what I think is one of the most entertaining of screwball comedies.  I mention in the Copeland piece that it’s my favorite of Barbara Stanwyck’s films (and it is) and that in a saner world she would have nabbed the Oscar for her priceless comedic turn (no disrespect to winner Joan Fontaine, but she gives a better performance in Letter from an Unknown Woman).  Co-star Gary Cooper did win an Academy Award that year, but for the Stacia-reviled Sergeant York…to be honest, I enjoy his performance in Fire a lot more.

I’m hoping that now I’ve completed a pair of Radio Spirits assignments I can get back to posting on a regular basis (or what passes for it) on the blog, but I did want to thank Brother Philip Schweier for his contributions during my absence…and to assure the new groupies he’s acquired that he’s sent in a few more reviews that I’m planning to put on the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear refrigerator soon.  I also regret not getting up a traditional Thanksgiving greeting this year, so I hope everyone out there in YesteryearLand had a happy one; the ‘rents and I went over to sister Kat’s for the big meal where we not only had the traditional turkey but also a succulent rib roast prepared by sister K.  Afterward, we were entertained by my nephew Davis with a medley of his hits including Itsy Bitsy Spider and some Yuletide-oriented fare (Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman).  (To my dismay, my shouted requests of Freebird fell on deaf ears.)

Me-TV viewers probably noticed a small schedule change earlier this week in that the channel watched Marshal Dillon (the half-hour Gunsmokes) and Rawhide ride off into the sunset—I know Encore Westerns has acquired Rawhide for its schedule of classic TV oaters beginning next year but I don’t know about Dillon (the Me-TV reruns are far more beat up than the ones released on DVD by CBS-Paramount, by the way).  Replacing Rawhide on the schedule is Mission: Impossible (yay) and coming off the bench for the Dillon repeats on late night weeknights is Peter Gunn…but the real treat will be on Saturday mornings (starting tomorrow) from 11-12 because Me-TV will introduce repeats of The Rebel into the rotation.  A press release at the channel’s website says that Wagon Train and Have Gun – Will Travel are also planned for the near future…but I’m guessing that will be when Encore is done with them.  So I’ll be clearing my schedule on Saturday mornings to watch Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma (I’ve never seen the show, but I can the Johnny Cash theme song on request) and I’m sure those of you who have an affiliate in your area will want to do the same.

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8 comments:

Edward Copeland said...

Slightly off topic, but I thought I'd give a big BOOO to TVLand which seems to change its schedule on a weekly basis which, after making its first good decision in years by acquiring The Dick Van Dyke Show and airing it at 6 p.m. Central time each night for an hour has now jerked it from that slot to the early morning hour of 8 a.m. Central time. Also, DOUBLE BOOS for TVLand and their sister channel Nick at Nite for the obsession with The Nanny which they seem to enjoy running for hours at a time, often simultaneously at night on both channels.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

It's never off-topic to boo TVLand. Boo. Boooooo...

DorianTB said...

Ivan, as always, you did a most entertaining and knowledgeable post, with lots of interesting behind-the-scene info! I've been meaning to watch BALL OF FIRE since it's been on TCM's THE ESSENTIALS recently (hooray for TiVo!). Of course I'd read about BALL OF FIRE, but never had an opportunity to see it. Now more than ever, I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching it!

In fact, my only complaint is that I was all set to watch my TiVo'd copy of BALL OF FIRE today, until I noticed that you had beat me to it with your terrific post! :-) No problem; I'll wait a couple of weeks and write another post I'd been meaning to get around to, about HIS KIND OF WOMAN. Yes, I know you blogged about it a while back, but I think it's been long enough since then that I can put my own spin on it! :-) Keep those great posts coming!

Scott said...

Great piece on Ball of Fire, Ivan. So enjoyable, in fact, that it's inspired me to fire up a whole other browser window and rewatch it (let Mr. Copeland know that it's available on Netflix Streaming. Not the greatest visual fidelity, but the performances shine on through).

Edward Copeland said...

I dumped Netflix streaming and went to DVDs only. I'd rather watch things on a big screen than my computer and I don't have or can't afford the equipment that transfers streaming stuff to your TV. Besides, so much streaming stuff is in the wrong aspect ratio and the DVD selection still is better.

Brent McKee said...

What was it about Howard Hawks remaking his own movies. He remade Rio Bravo twice (Eldorado and Rio Lobo). He also remade Ball of Fire as A Song Is Born, with Danny Kaye replacing Gary Cooper and Virginia Mayo in for Barbra Stanwyck. I saw A Song Is Born before I saw Ball Of Fire and it was - and remains - a favourite of mine in spite of a review (From Leonard Maltin I think) that describes it as one of the worst bombs ever.

At least you Americans have a classic TV channel that (a) bothers to show something other than colour comedies, and (b) actually manages to change the schedule on occasion. Deja View, the only channel in Canada that consistently shows "classic" TV shows hasn't changed its line-up in years. I've heard rumours that late at night Hawaii Five-O (the real one) and The Rockford Files show up late at night but I have no proof of that. All I ever see on that channel are All In The Family, Archie Bunker's Place and The Golden Girls no matter what time or day I have the channel on.

Paul Dionne said...

Drum Boogie!

hobbyfan said...

About Me-TV dumping Rawhide & Marshal Dillon. It happens. Rawhide was bumped from weekdays a couple of months back in favor of Route 66, which isn't too bad, either.

I would, however, prefer Mission: Impossible at an earlier, more accessible time. The timing of it arriving on Me-TV coincides with the 4th movie based on the show with Tom Cruise. The first film, however, turned me off, but that's another story for another time....