Year: 1951

Director: Billy WIlder

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall

Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) was far ahead of its time. It is a critique of the media. As a result the critics of the era did not exactly welcome it with open arms, but it also results in a movie that feels like it is on the cutting edge over a half a century later.

Time is often the measure of a movie. Some fall apart at the seams years later while others seem to just get better with time. Ace in the Hole was always good. It just wasn’t as well received at the time of its initial release. Ironically, the critics of the time apparently perceived it as an attack on the idea of a free press, when really it is more accurately described as a movie meant to support the free press and denounce those who abuse the system in place in America. This movie seems to have just improved with time and some could argue that it is more relevant now then ever.

Kirk Douglas plays a reporter who is the picture of confidence and charisma. He is brash and bold and unappologetic. He speaks his mind and is willing to take chances. He finds himself in a small town swindling his way into a job at a newspaper known for covering pine wood derbys and snake hunts. Kirk Douglas, as Charles Tatum, has grander schemes however and when a man gets trapped in a mine looking for Native American artifacts and knick knacks, Tatum decides he has the recipe for success after a long career of failures and firings and he seizes it.

Through smooth talking, and charisma he is able to employ the services of the local law enforcement to help him monopolize the story and turn it into a national event. He not only reports the story but places himself as a central figure in the story and even manipulates the events as they unfold. Through the networking he has set up, Tatum soon finds himself in a position to be able to prolong the victims time in the cave, endangering his life, but extending the length of the story and consequently his prominence as a national figure.

Tatum’s resourcefulness is a pleasure to watch. Kirk Douglass perfectly portrays a man swept up in the moment and desperate to use all of his talents and abilities to further his career.

The question is, will he endanger the life of this poor victim in order to elevate his own career?

By Greg Dickson