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Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole (1951) (renamed The Big Carnival before its release) is a film noir starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Billy Wilder (The Apartment (1860), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Double Indemnity (1944)). It's about "phony, below-the-belt journalism" and a cynical reporter who will stop at nothing to build up a sensational story in order to free himself from his small-town rut and dead-end job at the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin. A man gets trapped in a cave and reporter Chuck Tatum (Douglas) finds out and immediately resolves to exploit the situation. The trapped man's wife, who's ready to leave her husband anyway, is convinced by Tatum that, once he gets the story out nationwide, she too can benefit from her husband's misfortune, by selling food and knick-knacks to all those about to be drawn to the excitement of the rescue effort at the site, which is adjacent to her husband's property and near-forgotten shop. And so three characters want to escape, from a hole in a mountain, from a spouse and dull life, and from a small-time/town newspaper gig; plus the local sheriff joins the scheme, seeing it as an opportunity to gain votes toward his re-election. It's a great film—visually impressive with an entertaining script and a whole lot of witty one-liners. It's also the most cynical film noir I've seen, and relevant to this day and age in view of the "fake news" issue.

Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole
Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole


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