Mark Schenker concludes “How to Read a Film” series on screwball comedies with “Ball of Fire” on Sun., Dec. 15, at 1 PM

In this ninth installment of his series “How to Read A Film,” Mark Schenker, Dean of Academic Affairs of Yale College, turned to screwball comedies. Like the gangster movie, the Western and the Hollywood musical, the genre of screwball comedy films originated in the United States. The new satirical spin (hence “screwball”) on romantic comedy stressed witty dialogue and zaniness over sentimental love, and placed big name stars in odd situations. As with gangster movies, horror films and lavish musicals, the genre found a ready audience with Depression-era film-goers who were eager for escapist fare.

The final lecture with film in this series—rescheduled from Dec. 1 due to snow—will be on Sun., Dec. 15, at 1 PM. The series winds up with “Ball of Fire” from 1941, starring Barbara Stanwyck. (The previous films were the 1934 “It Happened One Night” on Nov. 10; “The Awful Truth” [1937], and “Some Like It Hot” [1959].) Admission is $7.

From Bosley Crowther’s rave 1942 New York Times review:

According to legend, Samuel Goldwyn has made some beautiful lapsi linguae in his time and has done things with the King’s English that stand as a monument to his name. Maybe. But still Mr. Goldwyn can’t be too touchy on that score, for now he has produced a picture which deliberately kicks the language around in a manner so colorful and lively that you can almost sense his tongue stuck in his cheek. “Ball of Fire” is the title of this wholly ingratiating lark, and so pleasant is its spoofing of the professional pose, so comprehensive is its handling of the modern vernacular and so altogether winning are Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in it that it had the customers jumping with enjoyment at the Music Hall yesterday.

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