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Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole

4.7 7
Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur


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Billy Winder directed and co-wrote this bitterly satiric comedy-drama which turns a jaundiced eye towards both the news media and its consumers. Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is a talented but short-tempered reporter whose fondness for booze and unwillingness to bow to authority has cost him jobs at some of America's most prestigious newspapers. When Tatum's car breaks


Billy Winder directed and co-wrote this bitterly satiric comedy-drama which turns a jaundiced eye towards both the news media and its consumers. Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is a talented but short-tempered reporter whose fondness for booze and unwillingness to bow to authority has cost him jobs at some of America's most prestigious newspapers. When Tatum's car breaks down in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tatum persuades the editor of the local paper (Porter Hall) to give him a job until he can make enough to get his jalopy running and find a story that will put him back in the good graces of the Big City journals. After a year in Albuquerque, Tatum begins to wonder if a big scoop will ever cross his path, but when he's sent to Los Barios to cover the annual rattlesnake hunt, he lucks into a great human interest story -- Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), who runs a local diner, motel and curio emporium, is caught in an abandoned mine shaft after a rockslide, which some superstitious locals attribute to an Indian curse. Tatum writes up the story with all the flourish he can muster, and portrays Leo's wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling) as a devoted spouse fearful for her husband's life, even though she can barely stand Leo and is planning to leave him. Tatum's story is picked up by the wire services and he makes friends with local sheriff Kretzer (Ray Teal) to insure he has an inside line on updates on Leo's rescue. When Tatum learns that Leo can be freed in a mere twelve hours, he persuades Kretzer and his men to adopt another rescue method that will take several days, which will generate more copy for Tatum, more press attention for Ketzer's re-election campaign, and more business for Lorraine's diner. Soon Los Barios is the biggest tourist attraction in the state, but as the media circus mounts, Leo begins to fall seriously ill. Also released as The Big Carnival, Ace In The Hole was a major box-office disappointment upon its original release in 1951, even though it was sandwiched between two of Wilder's biggest hits, Sunset Boulevard and Stalag 17. Despite never being released in home video until 2007, Ace In The Hole's bitter tone earned it an enthusiastic cult following, and it's now regarded as one of Wilder's best films of the Fifties.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
A movie truly ahead of its time, Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) turned out to be too bitter and cynical for moviegoers in 1951. An unrelenting portrait of media sensationalism and the human obsession with tragedy that propels it, the film is based on a true story that also spawned Robert Penn Warren's novel The Cave. Director, screenwriter, and producer Billy Wilder suffered perhaps the biggest commercial and critical failure of his career with Ace, losing much of his standing at Paramount, even though the movie was released between two of his most enduring and popular triumphs, Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Stalag 17 (1953). Ace was perhaps not up to the standard of those works, but it clearly stands as one of Wilder's many fine achievements. It's hardly surprising that this film failed to find a mainstream audience, despite the added attraction of emerging star Kirk Douglas in the lead. American culture wouldn't be ready for such a large dose of pessimism until the 1970s; even then, a film such as 1976's Network, which clearly paralleled the tone of Wilder's effort, was dismissed by many viewers as too hysterical.

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Special Features

New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; Audio commentary by film scholar Neil Sinyard; Portrait of a "60% Perfect Man": Billy Wilder, a 1980 documentary featuring interviews with Wilder by film critic Michel Ciment; Interview with actors Kirk Douglas from 1984; Excerpts from a 1986 appearance by Wilder at the American Film Institute; Audio excerpts from an interview with Wilder's coscreenwriter Walter Newman; Video afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee; Stills gallery; Trailer; One Blu-ray and two DVDs, with all content available in both formats; PLUS: essays by critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kirk Douglas Charles Tatum
Jan Sterling Lorraine
Robert Arthur Herbie Cook
Porter Hall Jacob Q. Boot
Frank Cady Mr. Federber
Richard Benedict Leo Minosa
Ray Teal Sheriff
Lewis Martin McCardle
John Berkes Papa Minosa
Frances Dominguez Mama Minosa
Gene Evans Deputy Sheriff
Frank Jaquet Smollett
Geraldine Hall Mrs. Federber
Richard Gaines Nagel
Bob Bumps Radio Announcer
Billy Sheehan Actor
Bob Kortman Digger
Edith Evanson Miss Deverich
Ralph Moody Kusac; Miner
Claire Du Brey Spinster
William Fawcett Sad-Faced Man
Bert Moorhouse Morgan
Ken Christy Jessop
Lester Dorr Priest
Larry Hogan Television Announcer
Bert Stevens Reporter
Iron Eyes Cody Indian Copy Boy
Jack Roberts Newspaperman
Harry Harvey Dr. Hilton

Technical Credits
Billy Wilder Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
Ray Evans Songwriter
Hugo W. Friedhofer Score Composer
Gene Garvin Sound/Sound Designer
Doane Harrison Editor
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Earl Hedrick Art Director
Charles B. Lang Cinematographer
Harold Lewis Sound/Sound Designer
Jay Livingston Songwriter
Ray Moyer Set Decoration/Design
Walter Newman Screenwriter
Hal Pereira Art Director
Lesser Samuels Screenwriter
Arthur P. Schmidt Editor
Wally Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ace in the Hole
1. Arrival in Albuquerque
2. "Where's My Desk?"
3. A Life Sentence
4. "Good News is No News"
5. Human Interest
6. Leo
7. "Forget the Rattlesnakes"
8. Lorraine Wants Out
9. Mr. and Mrs. America
10. "Everybody Likes a Break"
11. An Ace in the Hole
12. Twenty Minutes
13. A New Community
14. The Gentlemen of the Press
15. From the Top
16. Leo Suffers as the Carnival Arrives
17. Accusations from Boot
18. Rounding Third
19. A Song for Leo
20. A Turn for the Worse
21. Out of Options
22. The Present
23. Last Rites
24. The Circus is Over
25. A Tatum Special
26. "For Nothing"
1. Color Bars
Disc #2 -- Ace in the Hole
1. Austria and Early Years [11:41]
2. Berlin [3:33]
3. America and Collaborations [3:11]
4. Hold Back the Dawn/Directing [4:59]
5. Ace in the Hole/An Accumulator [5:05]
6. Some Like It Hot/The Seven Year Itch [6:14]
7. Script Ideas and Writing Process [5:31]
8. Bogart/Monroe/Dietrich [7:19]
9. Return to Berlin/Ahead of His Time [7:03]
10. Just Trying to Make a Living [3:44]
1. Early Days in the U.S./Reputation [7:49]
2. A Born Collaborator/Three Acts [2:58]
3. No Fancy-Schmancy Shots [2:28]
4. The Studios [6:51]
5. A Painful Profession [3:28]


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Ace in the Hole 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
BahamaJoe More than 1 year ago
This was a film which was controversial in its day but now seems more relevant given how the news media world has evolved. It was ably directed by the great Billy Wilder as a follow up to his Sunset Boulevard masterpiece. Kirk Douglas delivers a tour de force performance in this film in what can be described as a very nourish and edgy role even by today's standards. He plays a no holds barred down on his luck journalist in Albuquerque looking for his big break to get back to the Big City. He finds his opportunity when he stumbles upon a victim trapped in a tunnel cave in. The movie plot has to do with how he works the story. This 60 year old B&W film has received the full Criterion treatment and the film transfer both audio and video is superb. The extras include past interviews with Billy Wilder and Kirk Douglas about this film and how it was made. I believe anyone who is a film noir fan or news media junkie will find this blu ray worth owning. Highly recommended.
mike-s More than 1 year ago
Perhaps Douglas's finest role. Although the film did not get the best of reviews when it was released, it has become and will remain a classic. A bit to cynical for some, in my opinion that and Wilder's direction is what makes it a film you just can't turn away from. There are people in this world as Douglas depics, it's just a fact of life so just sit back and enjoy the film.
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