Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Fireball (1950) and thank you to @WarnerArchive
Fireball (1950) is pure novelty! From the campy plot, to Marilyn Monroe's supporting role, to Mickey Rooney on roller skates. It's a film I've been waiting years to see, ever since I had plotted to watch every Marilyn Monroe film known to man. And I've seen a lot. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. I watched a horrible late Marx Bros. movie for just a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe. I suffered through scenes with Ricardo Montalban macking on a not-so-sexy June Allyson in front of her then husband Dick Powell in Right Cross (1950) ::shudder::. But I've also discovered some really great films such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Clash By Night (1952) and All About Eve (1950). I've seen most of Monroe's catalog except for 4 and folks are not even sure if she's in 2 of those! What I really wanted to see was Fireball. Mickey Rooney, roller skating and Marilyn Monroe. That was enough to sell me on it. It helps that I had a career in roller skating too (a short career that ended with a broken hand).
Mickey Rooney plays Johnny Casar, a rebellious teen who is desperate to get out of the orphanage run by Father O'Hara (Edward O'Brien). Desperate for a meal, he steals some roller skates to pawn them for some cash. But when a cop stops him, he's forced to pretend the skates are his, puts them on and rolls on down the street in comedic fashion and lands himself right in front of a diner. This is when a series of opportunities present themselves to Johnny, and the eager young man seizes every single one of them and eventually rises to become a Roller Derby star. Marilyn Monroe is a sophisticated party gal who is in with the ritzy crowd but is titillated by the danger and excitement that comes with watching Roller Derby (it's like a fancy gal watching a boxing match in a pre-code!).
There is a lot of Mickey Rooney hate out there but you won't find it here. I love Mickey Rooney. For pete's sake, I drove all the way to Atlantic City to see the legend perform on stage. Rooney was as far away from me that glorious night in NJ as our television screen is from my sofa. Rooney is a pint-size ball of energy and his forte was entertaining on screen and on stage with that endless enthusiasm. Rooney was perfect for the role of Johnny. He had a knack for physical comedy and his energy allowed him to keep up with all the skating (and yes he did skate in most of the film!). If anyone is going to play a tireless pint-size athlete with a stubborn will to succeed, it's gotta be Mickey Rooney. (May I suggest a double feature with Rooney's other got-himself-in-too-deep film Quicksand (1950)?)
What's so wonderful about the Warner Archive is that we get to see all of those wonderful films that have been collecting dust for years in the Warner Bros. vaults. They are wonderful for a few reasons. Some are so bad, they are just so much fun to see. Some are real jewels, ones we've lusted after for years but were always out of reach. Some are brand new discoveries, eye-opening adventures. So thank you Warner Archive for putting out Fireball (1950). I thank you from the bottom of my Mickey-Rooney-Marilyn-Monroe-Roller-Skating-loving heart.
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