Film Review of The Fireball: An Astute Priest, a Generous Beauty, Numerous Groupies, and an Overnight Roller Derby Wonder
An orphan boy becomes a roller derby star. He is loved by fans and resented by teammates for the same reason: attention-getting personal and professional behavior. But will skill and stunts get him through unexpected challenges in “The Fireball”?
The Fireball, which also is called The Challenge, is a drama film by writers Tay Garnett and Horace McCoy; producer Bert E. Friedlob; and director Tay Garnett. Responsibility for cinematography, editing, and music is respectively by Lester White, Frank Sullivan, and Victor Jung. The production studio is Thor Productions Inc., which also is called Bert E. Friedlob Productions. The filming location is in Los Angeles, California and on the western Pacific Ocean island of Guam.
The film lasts 84 minutes. It premiered on October 7, 1950 in Los Angeles. It was released by its distributor, 20th Century Fox, on November 9, 1950.
The film begins with orphan Johnny Casar (Mickey Rooney) running away from St. Luke’s Home for Boys after a confrontation with Father O’Hara (Pat O’Brien). Johnny discovers a pair of roller skates lying unclaimed on the street. He dons the skates. He finds unaccustomed, unexpected adventure, challenge and excitement in dodging pedestrians and negotiating hills.
Johnny becomes a familiar face at a nearby skating rink. He gets the attention of Mary Reeves (Beverly Tyler). Mary offers to train Johnny for free. She views Johnny as someone of great enthusiasm, huge potential, little experience, and no resources.
Mary’s expert teaching inspires Johnny to put in hours upon hours of practice. Johnny therefore masters what he needs to know after several lessons. He ultimately obtains a position on a men’s roller derby team.
Fans flock to Johnny. Johnny offers an exuberant skating style as well as a flamboyant personality. Johnny’s teammates resent his unrelenting search for attention and victory.
Things fall apart at the international roller derby championship. Johnny forces other skaters to fall on the ice. Some of the skaters receive injuries when they also fall. The crowd turns against Johnny … until he collapses.
After a complete physical examination, Dr. Barton (Sam Flint) diagnoses Johnny with polio. Johnny is suicidal. He loses all will to live until he realizes how much Father O’Hara and Mary care about his well-being.
Several years later, Johnny graduates from an intensive rehabilitation program of therapy and training. He even is able to skate as energetically and flamboyantly as before. He returns to the competitive world of roller derby skating.
The film ends with Johnny’s revived roller derby career built not upon attention-getting, self-absorbed moves but instead upon sensitive, skillful teamwork.
The Fireball also is memorable in film history for Marilyn Monroe’s (1926-1962) performance as the groupie Polly who loves Johnny for his fame not himself.
Copyright: Saturday, August 11, 2012 by Derdriu