Ace in the Hole

  • Directed by Billy Wilder
  • United States, 1951, 111 mins., English

Out-of-work newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum (a perfectly smarmy, snarling Kirk Douglas in one of his best roles) moves west to New Mexico from New York following a string of firings for a variety of offenses, most notably libel and drunkenness. Now in the normal routine of covering small-town “interest” stories at an Albuquerque rag, he still longs for the thrill of the big story, and when a man becomes trapped in a collapsed cave on the outskirts of town, Chuck appears willing to go to any length not only to get the story, but to extend its grasp on the local (and national) attention as long as possible. The film, which won Wilder a best director nod at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, is a highly cynical vision of the role of the media in American society and one which only appears more accurate as time passes. “A perverse fascination underpins Wilder’s gaze. Chuck Tatum may be a callous sociopath, but there’s a striving energy to him—something Douglas brings out so vividly in his high-wire performance—that compels as much as it repels. After all, he’s as much looking for his own version of the American Dream as we all are, essentially.”—Kenji Fujishima, Brooklyn Magazine.

Appears in: Print the Legend

Genres: Film Noir

Other Films by Billy Wilder

sunset

Sunset Boulevard

Down-on-his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), out of work, rejected by the studios, and facing repossession of his car—a necessary tool in early ‘50s Los Angeles—seeks accidental refuge at the home of former silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, in a career-defining role). Norma’s once-opulent but decaying estate, located just off Sunset Boulevard