The grim story of an unscrupulous reporter who wins brief fame at the expense of a cave-in victim is rather graphically unfolded in Ace in the Hole.

The grim story of an unscrupulous reporter who wins brief fame at the expense of a cave-in victim is rather graphically unfolded in Ace in the Hole.

Kirk Douglas is the reportorial opportunist. He has been exiled to a small New Mexico daily after being kicked off top eastern sheets for dishonesty, drinking and a variety of insubordination. One day he accidentally stumbles on a story that he believes can get him back in the big leagues, if he plays the yarn long enough and can keep it to himself.

A dealer in Indian curios has become trapped by a cave-in in an ancient cliff dwelling. Douglas is the first to reach the victim (Richard Benedict), sees the story possibilities and makes a deal with a crooked sheriff and a contractor to delay the rescue as long as possible while he arranges exclusive coverage.

The performances are fine. Douglas enacts the heel reporter ably, giving it color to balance its unsympathetic character. Jan Sterling also is good in a role that has no softening touches, and Benedict’s victim portrayal is first-rate. Billy Wilder’s direction captures the feel of morbid expectancy that always comes out in the curious that flock to scenes of tragedy.

1951: Nomination: Best Story & Screenplay

Ace in the Hole

Production

Paramount. Director Billy Wilder; Producer Billy Wilder; Writer Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, Walter Newman; Camera Charles B. Lang Jr Editor Doane Harrison, Arthur Schmidt; Music Hugo Friedhofer Art Hal Pereira, Earl Hedrick

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1951. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Kirk Douglas Jan Sterling Bob Arthur Porter Hall Frank Cady Richard Benedict
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