Alert reader Sue Perdue, director of Documents Compass at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, saw the article we linked to yesterday on the business of encyclopedias and thought of Ball of Fire, the 1941 Howard Hawks romantic comedy starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.
Above is the movie’s trailer. “Educators from all over the world have been forced to streamline our dictionaries and encyclopedias,” the narrator intones, “because of the demands of modern slang. Selected to perform this Herculean task of rewriting these ponderous volumes of knowledge is . . .”
Gary Cooper, of course!
What follows is, at least based on my humble experience, a disturbingly accurate and authentic portrayal of the encyclopedia editor lifestyle, complete with hot dames, mobsters, and Gene Krupa. (I’m not too proud to admit that I woke up recently humming “Drum Boogie” to myself. But I would recommend the Anita O’Day version over the Martha Tilton/Barbara Stanwyck one from the film.)
Anyway, remarkably, you can watch the whole film for free right here. Enjoy!