A 1941 Howard Hawks
film, starring Gary Cooper
and Barbara Stanwyck
Tangentially based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, this is the story of seven professors secluded in a mansion in Manhattan, working doggedly away at writing an encyclopedia. Each one of the nerdy little scholars is an expert in a certain field, and is writing the entries pertinent to that field.
In an uncharacteristic and refreshing bit of casting, Cooper was enlisted to play the devilishly sexy and endearingly nerdy English professor Bertram Potts, and a fine job he makes of it too. His customary screen reticence translates beautifully into shy single mindedness as per the best of geeks.
Professor Potts is lured out of this convivial ivory tower by the need to find out more about the commonly spoken English language for his entry under "slang". In the course of his research he comes across Sugarpuss O'Shea (Stanwyck), a lively and none too scrupulous mafia moll and cabaret singer. Sugarpuss' boyfriend find it convenient to have her hidden away in an unsuspicious location for a while, and so she lands on the timid little dwarves' doorstep and settles in to stay.
The rest of the action is predictable - the wooden prof and the heart-of-gold floozy swiftly feel the power of each other's attraction, the evil gangster boyfriend tries to come between them, a hilarious chase scene ensues and in the end everybody lives happily ever after.
What makes this movie truly great (apart from the dialogue, which is fast and furious in best 40's fashion) is the absolutely faultless characterisation of each of the supporting characters. The professors are each a perfect example of a familiar geeky stereotype, lovable and hilarious without stealing the show. The chemistry between Cooper and Stenwyck is excellent, and the gangsters are suitably brash and comfortingly unthreatening.
While tame and demure by today's standard's, this is still a vastly entertaining movie with several hearty laughs, and one of my childhood favourites.