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Ace in the Hole

(The Big Carnival)

(1951 b 111')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Directed by Billy Wilder, a flamboyant reporter finds a man trapped in a mine and turns the story into a circus while cornering exclusive coverage.

         Reporter Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) asks Albuquerque editor Jacob Q. Boot (Porter Hall) for a job.

After a year Tatum complains he is stuck there. Chuck and Herbie Cook (Robert Arthur) go to cover a rattlesnake hunt. Lorraine Minosa (Jan Sterling) tells them a cave-in trapped her husband. Chuck volunteers to take things in to him. He tells Herb it is human interest. Chuck finds Leo pinned down and asks what happened. Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) says it is an Indian tomb. Chuck takes pictures and tells Herb he wants the story to last a week. Chuck tells Papa Minosa (John Berkes) they need engineers. Chuck asks Lorraine for a room and calls his editor Boot.

         Chuck types, and at 5:45 a.m. Lorraine says she is leaving on a bus. A couple arrives and shows them the newspaper story. Chuck tells Lorraine she will have much business.

         People gather. Dr. Hilton (Harry Harvey) tells Chuck what Leo needs. Chuck is summoned by the Sheriff (Ray Teal) and tells him he will be a hero. Engineer Sam Smollett (Frank Jaquet) says it will take sixteen hours. Chuck suggests more caution that will take days. Papa Minosa gives Chuck his room. Lorraine thanks Chuck, but he slaps her.

         Radio reports that Smollett is drilling, and a crowd has gathered. Chuck tells Lorraine to go to a church service for pictures. Chuck tells Herb that they quit. The Sheriff won’t let other reporters go in to Leo. Chuck shows them he is a deputy and says he is available. Radio interviews Chuck, and a miner says there is a faster way than drilling from above. Chuck goes in and talks with Leo, and he invites him to go to New York. Papa Minosa tells Lorraine he doesn’t want the carnival coming in.

         Chuck finds Boot in his room. Boot says that the Sheriff is corrupt and that Chuck’s journalism is phony. Herb comes in and stays with Chuck. New York editor Nagel calls Chuck, who gets $1,000 a day during the story and his old job back.

         After a song, the Sheriff makes a speech. A special train arrives. Chuck tells Lorraine to stay away from other reporters.

         On the sixth day Dr. Hilton checks Leo, who is weak and wants a priest. Dr. Hilton tells Chuck that Leo has twelve hours. Chuck tells the Sheriff they have to go in the easy way. The Sheriff disagrees, and Chuck hits him. Smollett says they can’t go in that way now.

         Herb tells Nagel that Chuck has not been in. Chuck tells Leo to breathe the oxygen. Chuck gives Lorraine her anniversary present from Leo. She throws the fur down, and Chuck chokes her with it. She stabs Chuck, and he drives the police car to the church. Chuck takes the priest to Leo for his last rites. Chuck tells Smollett to stop the drill. Chuck speaks with a microphone and says that Leo is dead. “The circus is over.”

         People leave, and Lorraine misses the bus. Herb tells Chuck that Nagel fired him. Chuck makes reporters get out. Chuck calls Nagel and says Leo was murdered. Herb drives Chuck to the newspaper office. Chuck finds Boot and collapses.

         This cynical drama exposes how an ambitious journalist manipulates people in order to become a star reporter. He knows that bad news is best and that good news is no news; but he miscalculates the climax of the story and finds that he becomes a part of the bad news.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

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