As I mentioned earlier in my post on writing dialogue, I mentioned the film Ball of Fire as an example of a wonderful feat of movie dialogue, filled as it is with wacky slang and lingo. I’ve just re-watched the film
Ball of Fire (1941) is directed by Howard Hawks, director of other Hollywood classics as Scarface (original version), Red River, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, two of the biggest stars of their time. It also features Dana Andrews in one of his rare appearances in a comedy. It’s written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, a short time before Wilder would become a big name director. Wilder would later reunite with Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Cooper in Love in the Afternoon.
Interestingly, Wilder wrote the script shortly after emigrating to America. How he mastered English so quickly I’ll never understand. According to Wilder, he and his co-writer went to a local soda shop and kept buying sodas just so they could overhear the slang teenagers were using.
Ball of Fire isn’t as well-known as it should be. Usually when old screwball comedies are brought up, titles like It Happened One Night or Some Like it Hot enter the conversation. I personally like Ball of Fire more. For a sample of just some of the dialogue that makes this movie great, keep reading.
“You have committed a more serious crime–splitting an infinitive.”–Gary Cooper
“You have said slap it together. We are not the slap it together kind.”–G. Cooper
“The accepted vulgarism for smackeroo is a dollar.”–Garbage man
“Hit the jiggle for a little drum boogie.”–Garbage man
“Very Hoy-toy-toy.”–garbage man
“Skiddoo from skedaddle.”–G. Cooper
“You’re giving me the screaming mimis.”–newspaper boy
“Who are you, father Flanagan?”–newspaper boy
“Killer Diller.” Barbara Stanwyck
“The cat is rocking with a solid eight.”–B. Stanwyck,
“Are you a bull or aren’t you?”–B. Stanwyck
“Shove in your clutch.”–B. Stanwyck
“Scram, scrow, scraw.”–B. Stanwyck
“The whole conjugation.”–G. Cooper
“It’s as red as the Daily Worker and just as sore.”–B. Stanwyck
“Long time no see, that’s Indian corn.”–Garbage man
“I’ll get you on the Ameche.”–B. Stanwyck.
“You’re a regular yum-yum.”–B. Stanwyck
“Crabapple Annie.”–B. Stanwyck
“Pure Gestanko.”–gossiping girls
I’ve figured out what most of these lines mean, but if you can figure out “Screaming mimis,” “Crabapple Annie,” and “Pure Gestanko,” go ahead and put your definitions in the comments box. Thanks.
To read it on your Nook, click here.