Ace In The Hole
Published on Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:00
Written by Rock
|Title||Ace In The Hole|
|Directed By||Billy Wilder|
|Written By||Walter Newman, Lesser Samuels, Billy Wilder|
|Starring||Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Bob Arthur, Porter Hall|
|DVD Distributer||Criterion Collection|
|MPAA Rating||Not Rated|
|By It Now On|
It's as good as chewin' gum with a silver wrapper! Ace In The Hole
Nobody makes films the way Billy Wilder did. Double Indemnity
(1944), Sunset Boulevard
(1950), Witness For The Prosecution
(1957), and this film, were all nominated for Academy Awards for one reason or another. The Austrian-Hungarian immigrant, whom fled his homeland in the early 1930's, was originally intentioned to inherit the family business, which was a successful bakery at the train station. Working briefly in his youth as a writer for various local papers and tabloids, he eventually migrated his talents toward screen-writing before his emergence in Hollywood. Jewish by birth, he lost his mother, grandmother, and stepfather to the events occurring at Auschwitz.
Wilder's films are strong on story, and, if you as a viewer are so inclined to take part in good story-telling, Billy's your man. Known for casting against type, he took America's family man Fred MacMurray, and cast him as the "bad guy". He took America's bad guy, Humphrey Bogart, and cast him in a comedy. Wilder took material generally considered unsuitable by the Hay's Code and brought them to light on screen. Though never fully appreciated by many critics, and having suffered at the box-office for many commercial failures, Billy Wilder has brought audiences some of the most memorable performances, as well as, some of the greatest classic films of all time. Viewers would do well to appreciate much of his catalog.
Though Ace In The Hole
performed poorly upon its initial release, this Criterion Collection DVD brings forth Wilder's vision of humanity. Upon its release to theaters, an executive at Paramount changed this films title to The Big Carnival
, but, airings on Turner Classic Movies and this reviewed pressing by Criterion reverted to the films original title. The movie centers on themes of the press and its relationship with the public, as well as the subjects on which the press extends its reach upon.
Chuck Tatum (Douglas), is an embittered, has been reporter looking for a break. His past of adultery, drinking, and slander have cost him eleven jobs at other publications. Stranded and broke in New Mexico, he manages to broker a job at a small town newspaper, where he makes his way scribing uneventful features. He happens upon the unfortunate accident of Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), whom has become trapped within the confines of a collapsed tunnel while searching for Native American artifacts.
Though Chuck manages to involve and secure a physician (Harry Harvey), an engineer, and the local corrupt Sheriff (Ray Teal), in Leo's plight for survival, he manipulates the rescue effort in order to generate public sympathy and interest in his exclusive story.
In tow is novice photographer Herbie Cook (Arthur), whose ideals become corrupted under the influence of Tatum's scheme. Leo's wife Lorraine (Sterling) becomes involved with Chuck's plan, as well. Unhappy with her lot in life, she is unmoved by her husbands circumstance, and finds herself at the mercy of Tatum's abusive treatment of her.
Soon, thousands of curious onlookers arrive at the scene outside of the collapsed tunnel, and admission is charged for those willing to view Leo's "rescue". Lorraine's gift shop and diner rake in the cash on hamburgers, souvenir head dresses, and admissions. Eventually, a Carnival troupe sets up tents and ferris wheels to entertain the masses. The Sheriff, under Tatum's direction, keeps the rest of the press at bay, so Chuck can name his price on the story, for any paper willing to hire him.
Ace In The Hole
is based, in part, on the events surrounding W. Floyd Collins, whom had been trapped within a cave by a landslide in Kentucky, and Kathy Fiscus, a three year old who fell into an abandoned well. Both unfortunate individuals had perished before they could be saved, yet their stories captivated the attentions of many during their ordeals. William Burke Miller, the journalist whom relayed the story of W. Floyd Collins, earned a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts pertaining to the tragic story enthralling his readers.
In the case of young Kathy, thousands of people actually appeared on the scene to witness rescue efforts.
Ace In The Hole is, by no discernible means, a happy movie, but, if viewers are cynical in nature, they should be amicably amused by Wilder's depiction of human nature. This film is strong on story and character development, and boasts one of the largest sets produced for a non-war film for the era in which it occurred. This reviewer would strongly suggest entertaining this film for viewing, at some point in their view list, as all of Billy Wilder's works during this period of his career.
Jan Sterling arrived at her stage name at the insistence of actress Ruth Gordon. Previously billed as Jane Adriance, Jane Sterling, and Jane Darian, she was born from a well-to-do family, and studied abroad before making appearances on Broadway and Television. Jan was nominated for an Academy Award and earned a Golden Globe Award for her efforts in The High and the Mighty (1954). Jan often portrayed hard edged characters, which can be observed in films such as Caged (1950) , and television roles such as The Guiding Light (1968). Jan outlived her only child, succumbing to illness in 2004 at the age of 85.