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Ace in the Hole

September 29, 2010

232. Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)
Directed by Billy Wilder
USA, 1951

IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing

Bad news sells best. ‘Cause good news is no news.


Ambitious journalist Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is down on his luck, stuck at a small-town newspaper just waiting for a big story to take him back to the top. He chances upon trapped caver Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) and exploits the human interest angle of the story, making it a national sensation. Chuck bribes the local sheriff to give him exclusive rights to Leo, then has the rescue operation slowed down to prolong the story.


In true Billy Wilder fashion, Ace in the Hole takes a gloriously cynical view of journalism, law enforcement and humanity in general. Everybody takes advantage of Leo’s situation, whether it’s Chuck Tatum influencing events to sell more newspapers, Leo’s wife making money off the tourists who flock to the area or the sheriff boosting his profile in time for the upcoming elections.

I mean, these are grade-A bastards! The only thing hollower than Chuck’s heart is his chin.* In a lesser film this could be unappealing, but Billy Wilder’s gifts for dark comedy and hard-boiled dialogue make Ace in the Hole irresistible.

*You didn’t think I could review a Kirk “The Magnificent Dimple” Douglas movie without mentioning his chin even once, did you?

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