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Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole (1951)
Dir. Billy Wilder
stars Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, and Richard Benedict

A movie for our times. When I consider the news business today it seems that the industry has taken some of the more negative lessons that we may have learned from Citizen Kane and made it into the model for current journalism. News of the fantastic, human interest stories that border on gossip and outright lies, too headlines that draw you into a story only to disappoint when you realize that the story has little or nothing to do with the headline.You really cannot blame the media for this phenomenon, but rather we must blame ourselves. We eat these stories up and the media seeks to provide us with a steady diet of such stories, making money off of other people's misfortune. This is what happens in Ace in the Hole.
A big city newspaper man has been fire from a string of big city newspapers, and seeks to make a comeback, by bringing his style of journalism to Albuquerque New Mexico. He scoffs at a sign on the wall that claims that it is best to tell the truth. The break he is waiting for comes nearly a year after he has been in New Mexico. It seems a cave-in has trapped the owner of the local trading post in a silver mine. Tatum (Kirk Douglas) takes himself off of his official assignment to cover the cave-in. He makes a deal with the sheriff and the owner of the trading posts to give himself the inside scoop on the story. He does all he can to prolong the rescue to keep his story in the headlines, and he does all he can from preventing even the big city papers from moving in on his scoop.

Tatum learns that the man could be rescued in a few days, but works with the local Sheriff and the supervisor of the rescue crew to pursue methods of rescue that he claims will be "safer" for the victim. He convinces the trapped man's wife to stay at her post and play the grieving widow. She stays when she realizes that she can charge 25cents to allow people to view the rescue. (This goes up to a dollar as more people come in, and an actual carnival sets up near the mine) As predicted the rescue takes to long and the victim dies in the mine, just a couple of hours before they can reach him.

As mentioned above the indictment does not lie a Tatum's feet or Tatum or Charles Foster Kane's feet. It lies at our own feet, for feeding these types of stories.

The technical aspects of the film were very good, I watched the Criterion edition which provided an excellent watching experience.