Filmsite Movie Review
Ace in the Hole (1951)
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The Story (continued)

A Surprise Visit From Mr. Boot:

Tatum entered the crowded trading post and pushed his way through the hordes of people (who were yelling unanswered questions at him) to enter the back bedroom where he had set up his temporary office. The room was in unkempt condition with clothes strewn about. He removed his jacket - revealing his shiny deputy badge. He reached for one of the bottles of whiskey to pour himself a stiff drink (a sign of his own uneasiness) - when he stopped, turned and noticed a surprise visit from his boss Boot, standing in the far corner of the room: "Go ahead. I guess you need a drink." Tatum was undoubtedly worried about whether the slowly-deteriorating Leo would survive the next few days - long enough for a successful rescue.

The very principled Boot had come to both praise and chastise Tatum for his unethical and crooked operation to monopolize the news - he also knew that Tatum was in cahoots with the local and corrupt Sheriff, and threatened to expose their scheme:

Sensational copy you've been sending in....Had to get out an extra every day. Circulation jumped 8,000.

(Tatum defiantly took a drink during the negative part of Boot's speech)

Heard a few things in Albuquerque about how you're handling this story. I didn't like it. Now that I'm here, I like it even less...Tatum, you've been putting a halo around that Kretzer Sheriff, so you could hog the whole story. That's the setup, isn't it?...Kretzer should be kicked out, not re-elected. One of these days, I'll get the facts and print them. I think he's corrupt, rotten, no good....I don't make deals. Not my paper. Even if it does sell 8,000 more a day.

Tatum was actually relieved that Boot didn't appear to know the whole truth about his maneuverings. They were interrupted by the first of three phone calls from big-city editors - Tatum agreed to an interview with a Chicago news outlet - but in half an hour.

He then announced to a regretful Boot that he had already sent a wire about quitting his job because he wasn't the right fit for an office with the motto "TELL THE TRUTH":

Tatum: I've quit. I'm not workin' for ya any more.
Boot: I'm sorry to hear that, Chuck.
Tatum: No you're not. I'm not your kind of newspaperman. I don't belong in your office, not with that embroidered sign on the wall. It gets in my way.
Boot: Then it does bother you a little.
Tatum: Not enough to stop me. I'm on my way, and if it takes a deal with a crooked sheriff, that's all right with me. And if I have to fancy it up with an Indian curse and a broken-hearted wife for Leo, that's all right, too!
Boot: Not with me, it isn't. And not with a lot of others in this business. Phony, below-the-belt journalism. That's what it is.
Tatum: Not below the belt. Right in the gut, Mr. Boot. Human interest.
Boot: You heard me. Phony. For all I know, there isn't even a Leo down there.
Tatum: Yes, there is. Tatum made sure of that. Look, I've waited a long time for my turn at bat. Now that they've pitched me a fat one, I'm gonna smack it right out of the ballpark.

A second phone call came in from Philadelphia that Tatum also postponed, as Herbie burst into the room excitedly: "I had that medicine man stage a whole ceremonial." As the voice of reason, Boot urged Herbie to pack up and return to Albuquerque with him to avoid Tatum's corrupting influence - hinting that the young impressionable apprentice wasn't up to playing in the "big leagues" with his acquired role model - Tatum. According to Tatum, however, Herbie was "old enough to make up his own mind" - since the young apprentice wanted to "stick with" him.

A third call came from New York - the most important one that Tatum was waiting and hoping for: ("Sure, I'm ready to talk to New York. Put them on"). Before taking the call, Tatum reinforced Herbie's decision to remain with him:

Tatum: (to Boot) Don't be so sorry for him. What makes you think the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin is all that a kid wants out of life? What makes you think you have all the answers?
Boot: They're out of date.
Tatum: High-button shoes, belt and suspenders, they're not wearing them any more. Look at the calendar, Mr. Boot. It's the 20th century, the second half of it! You don't expect the kid to stand still. He wants to get going. Going!
Boot: Going where? (Boot exited)

Merchandizing the Disaster For Tatum's Personal Gain:

Tatum responded to the call from the New York Daily from his former editor-in-chief boss Mr. Nagel (Richard Gaines) who had once fired him. Nagel was angling to get his hands on the Minosa story - with exclusive rights: "What about that Minosa story?...Come on, Tatum! How much for the Minosa story? Exclusive!" Tatum bargained for more - as he took another swig of whiskey:

What do you think I got here, a plane crash or a set of quadruplets? This is a circulation builder. It'll go another four days. Some beautiful copy coming. Speak up fast. There's a waiting list.

Nagel succumbed to Tatum's pressure and offered a grand a day: "So you think you've got me over a barrel? All right, maybe you have! Give you $1,000 a day. As long as it lasts." But Tatum then divulged her real intent - he also wanted his former job back:

Mr. Nagel, you're not getting the point. It's not just $1,000 a day. It's that desk of mine I want back when this is over. You heard me. The old desk, the old job.

Nagel agreed to send a contract by wire, after which Tatum confirmed his end of the deal: "You'll get the first story in an hour. Oh, one more thing. See that there's some flowers on my desk with a little ribbon. 'Welcome Home.'" After removing his suspenders and tossing them aside, throwing caution to the wind, Tatum gloated to himself (and to Herbie) with a baseball metaphor: "We're rounding third." The starstruck Herbie was supportive: "I'm right behind you, Chuck."

At the end of the sequence as they were congratulating each other (with Tatum's small neck grab of young Herbie) on their personal gains and plans to go East together, Mama Minosa quietly entered the room with two new votive candles, to replace the burned out ones on the ledge below the Madonna statue on the wall. She lit the candles - as the scene faded to black - a harsh reminder that Tatum's unscrupulous bargaining held a man's life in the balance.

The Frenzied, Commercialized Disaster Site - The Film's Best Set-Piece:

The area around the trading post was now swarming with more people and cars, surging toward the entrance gate where admission was now $1 dollar/car. On site, a five-piece, western-costumed country group Bill Ramsey and the Rythem Wranglers were on a stage platform singing the folksy, cheerful song: "We're Coming, Leo" - it referred to the exploited Leo's imprisonment, and the 'gropin' of Tatum and Lorraine above-ground - with both implicit and explicit meanings (and sexual innuendo). Sheet music of the song was being sold for $.25 cents a copy by a young female in a black cowgirl outfit:

We're comin', we're comin', Leo
Oh Leo, don't despair.
While you are in the cave-in hopin'
We are up above you gropin'
And we soon will make an openin', Leo
We're closer, we're closer, Leo
And soon you'll breathe fresh air
While you are in the devil's prison,
Keep that spark of life a fizzin'
We'll soon have you out of prison, Leo.
Oh, Leo, Leo, Leo, Leo
Be steadfast and keep your spirits high
We're coming, we're coming, Leo...

We're digging, we're digging, Leo
We've come to set you free
We can look you in the eye
When you are free beneath the sky

The Federbers were eager and insatiable consumers and recipients of the sheet music - exemplifying the archetypal, parasitic American middle-class family of 'vultures' that were circling the mass media event. The father's profession (the insurance business) was very apt, since insurance companies have been known to feed off the misfortunes or accidents of others. Afterwards as a crane shot moved above the crowd, the family made their way to the midway of the carnival, arranged for and hired by Lorraine. S&M provided giant tents, concession stands selling food (chicken and hamburgers), a rotating Ferris Wheel, and a prominent sign that read:

PROCEEDS GO TO LEO MINOSA RESCUE FUND

The Sheriff was delivering a self-serving speech to onlookers in the crowd that was being broadcast by Albuquerque's KOB-TV (with a camera set atop a bus) over loudspeakers - he thanked everyone for their support:

I want to take this opportunity of thanking you people of the television audience for the hundreds of letters and telegrams that have been pouring in. I only wish that I could reach right out there and shake you by the hand, each and every one of you. But there's one thing that I want to make plain to you good people of Los Barrios County. When election day rolls around, I don't want what I'm doing here to influence your vote one little bit. Because all I'm doin' here is my duty as your Sheriff.

The Federber family's ferris wheel chair-carriage rotated around - the two happy children were still wearing their Indian headdresses and each had a balloon on a stick. In the background atop the mountain where Smollett and his sweaty, hard-working crew were drilling, Papa Minosa delivered bottles of soda pop and sandwiches. As he looked out below, he became overwhelmed and bewildered by the sight of the crass commercialization extending as far as the eye could see.

In the far distance, a steam locomotive spewing smoke pulled into view - labeled with banners: LEO MINOSA SPECIAL. The train (even before coming to a complete stop) disengorged passengers who raced moronically toward the tragic spectacle at the cliff-dwelling, drawn to the site of the sensational calamity and imperceptibly ignoring Native Americans in authentic Indian finery.

Corraling In Lorraine - With a Kiss:

In Tatum's back bedroom, a large tele-typewriter machine had been installed to both receive and send exclusive news bulletins to Mr. Nagel in New York. He reached into a bowl for some ice for his half-consumed glass of whiskey, but it was empty. He rose and entered the outer trading post lunch-room to inquire for ice, but was ignored by busy waitresses tending to the near-capacity crowd. He noticed Lorraine huddled at a booth with his newspaper rivals: McCardle, Jessop, and Morgan, and nodded for her to join him.

It was becoming clear to him that she was his own monomaniacal self's mirror-image - reflecting his own cold callousness, selfishness, shamelessness and venality by always angling for the best set-up for herself - she was even making plans on joining him in New York!

In his makeshift bedroom-office, he cautioned Lorraine to be wary of his long-time opponents who he considered "sharpies":

Lorraine: What can the management do for you?
Tatum: I'll tell you what you can do. You can stop playing games with those newsboys.
Lorraine: They're nice fellows.
Tatum: They're sharpies. They'll rope you into a game of 20 questions. And 20 questions take 20 answers. And one of them may be the wrong one.
Lorraine: Don't worry, Mr. Tatum. They just want me to write somethin' for them....My life with Leo, in three parts. I got 'em up to $750.
Tatum: Tell them you can't spell.
Lorraine: I told them I'm not interested in their $750.
Tatum: And you're not interested in $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000, understand?
Lorraine: And I'm not interested in their three-part story, either. It's the fourth part I'm thinkin' about. After I get out of here, I'm figurin' on goin' to New York, too. Maybe I'll run into ya. Maybe you'll buy me a couple of drinks. Maybe you'll even take me out for a big evening, huh?
Tatum: How big?
Lorraine: You won't be ashamed of me. I'm gonna buy me a new trousseau and look real swell.
Tatum: Why don't you wash that platinum out of your hair?

In a startling close-up, Tatum's fist grabbed the back of Lorraine's bleached hair as he drew her close to him - their only kiss in the film was obscured by the violent thrust of his controlling hand. The scene faded to black.

The 5th Night of Drilling at the Rescue Site - Leo Nearing Death:

Bob Bumpas from radio station KOAT in Albuquerque was continuing to broadcast from on-site in Escudero - it was the fifth night of the drilling efforts (Sunday through Thursday night) atop the cliff dwelling, and the lights of the carnival sparkled in the darkness:

This is the fifth night the big drill has been pounding and grinding its way toward Leo. The rescue workers are now only 26 feet away. At the rate they are going, they should reach Leo by this time tomorrow night. So after 129 hours of being buried alive, at last, freedom seems in sight.

However, Leo's health was rapidly deteriorating - he was having respiratory difficulties with shallow breath and a worsening cough, and stubble growth covered his face. The incessant pounding of the drilling operation was ever-present, as the doctor (with Tatum at his side near the aperture) encouraged Leo to breathe. He was ready to give up - and begged for a priest: "Get me Father Diego....Chuck, don't, don't let me die without the priest." Tatum encouraged Leo to hang on just a little longer: "You don't need a priest. You're not going to die," but the entombed man was resigned to his fate for his sacrilegious act of stealing the ancient spirits' artifacts: "They'll never let me go. They're gettin' even with me for robbin' their tomb." After listening to his lungs with an extended stethoscope, the doctor diagnosed (secretly to Tatum) that Leo was suffering from pneumonia and would be dead in about 12 hours if not rescued by then: "You can't lie down here five days and five nights in the same position....We can get him some oxygen and help him breathe....Unless we get him in a hospital tomorrow morning, he'll be dead."

Leo sensed that he had only a few short hours left to live, and told Tatum to curtail the rescue effort: "Tell them to stop the drill. It's no use. They'll never make it." Tatum didn't want Leo to surrender: "Get those ideas outta your head. You're talking crazy. You'll be out of here by tomorrow morning." But Leo believed it was futile: "No, I won't. They'll never reach me by tomorrow morning. I figured it out myself." When Tatum zealously assured him he would be rescued in 12 hours, Leo was still blindly trusting in him:

You wouldn't be lying to me now, would you, Chuck?...No, you wouldn't. You never have. (Tatum couldn't respond untruthfully)

Desperation in the Final Hours of the Rescue Operation - Thursday Evening:

Sweaty and dirty, Tatum returned to his bedroom headquarters later that night where Sheriff Kretzer was again amusing himself by feeding chewing gum (with the silver wrapper on it) to his pet baby rattlesnake in a cardboard box. He was inattentive to Kretzer's self-important musings about how to personally benefit at the moment of Minosa's liberation the following evening - with a speech: "I think we ought to get together about tomorrow night. The kid will be out, so let's make a big thing of it. Now, the moment they bring him up, I wanna shake hands with him. But I gotta be the first one. Then I wanna make a speech from the top of the hill. I want you to write it for me. Something nice and simple."

Feeling remorseful about the turn of events, Tatum sent out an exclusive press-release on the teletypewriter machine to Nagel about a "new development":

ESCUDERO, JUNE 22nd.
NEW DEVELOPMENT. MINOSA STORY. RESCUERS
EXPECT TO REACH LEO TOMORROW MORNING.
MORE COMING.

TATUM

Scrambling to resuscitate his plan for personal glory, Tatum was desperate to save the dying Leo as soon as possible - his idea was that the rescuers could reinstitute the original plan of rescuing the trapped Leo by shoring up the cave supports, in order to release him in just 12 hours: "We'll have Leo out by tomorrow morning. We're going the other way....The way we could have gone in the first place, the easy way." As he washed his face in a bowl at the wash stand, Tatum confessed his change of plans to save his own reputation and possibly avoid criminal prosecution:

I'll tell you why. Because the guy in there is dying. That's no good for my story. When you have a big human interest story, you've got to give it a big human interest ending. When you get people steamed up like this, don't ever make suckers out of them. I don't want to hand them a dead man. That's why.

The Sheriff realized a quick and drastic remediation effort of the sort would resurrect suspicions and far too many questions, but Tatum insisted on saving Leo's life (and his own neck to avoid recrimination for master-minding a fatal disaster):

Sheriff: ...I know one thing for sure. If we make that switch now, we got a lot of explaining to do. People are gonna wanna know a lot of things, especially them reporter friends of yours. Like, for instance, why did we have to set up that drill? Why did we waste five days?... Why should we stick out our necks? Why not stick to the drill? We'll speed it up as much as we can, and if we get him while he's still alive, well, fine. If we're too late, well, we done the best we could.
Tatum: It's a better story if we're not too late.

Smollett had been summoned by Tatum, but the Sheriff stubbornly argued that he was still the commanding officer and wouldn't be bullied by Tatum ordering him around. After a brief fistfight, the Sheriff found himself sprawled on the ground where he was ordered to follow Tatum's new strategy: "Tell him to go in through the cliff dwelling, shore it up and get him out fast."

During the fight, Smollett had entered the room and overheard Tatum's most recent demands. He divulged an unfortunate fact - after committing to the top-of-the-mountain drilling plan, it would now be impossible to switch back to the initial plan. The vibrations from the drilling had made the cave too unstable:

Not through the cliff dwelling. You can't get him out that way any more....Because we've been pounding away with that drill too long. They're all shot, those walls. You can't shore 'em up now. Put a lot of men to work in there, and they'll cave in on them.

It was a stunning revelation - and Smollett didn't want to take the blame for following orders - under pressure: "Don't look at me like that. I never wanted to use the drill in the first place. I never wanted to go in on this at all. You know that." It was clearly apparent that Leo would not survive in time for the rescue.

The pounding of the teletype machine spit out a response from Nagel to Tatum's most recent transmission - but the machine was unattended.

The Final Day - Friday Morning:

After a short dissolve, it was now morning-time, as sunlight streamed through the bedroom window behind the teletype machine. Herbie was on the phone speaking with Mr. Nagel in New York, unaware of Tatum's whereabouts and trying to make excuses for not responding to Nagel.

All night, Tatum had been at Leo's side struggling to keep him alive, with an oxygen tank and attached mouthpiece-breathing apparatus. As Leo gasped for air, Tatum yelled at him: "Leo, you have to breathe that oxygen!" The exhausted and feverish, ready-to-give-up Leo challenged the drillers above - and the heavens to take him: "Come on, up there. Make all the noise you want. Hurry up. I'm all set."

Leo recalled that it was his 5th year-marriage anniversary to Lorraine: "I hope she hasn't found the present. I want to give it to her myself. I hid it in a good place. In the cupboard of our room, in my old barracks bag. She'll never find it there. I want her to wear it. She'll look like a million." He was imagining freeing his legs and walking down the hill to his home, to climb up the stairs and personally give Lorraine his gift. His last words were: "Up the stairs. Up the stairs. Up the stairs. Up the stairs."

The Five-Year Anniversary Gift:

After a dissolve and clever sound transition, Tatum climbed 'up the stairs' to Lorraine's upstairs apartment in the trading post. To surprise Tatum, she was in front of her washstand and mirror, clipping her bangs after dying her hair a light brown color to please him after recent criticisms: "I'm changin' my type. Goin' light brown again. That's the color it was before I started foolin' around with it." He proceeded over to the cupboard to retrieve Leo's hidden anniversary present stuffed in a duffel bag. He handed Lorraine the gift-wrapped box with ribbons - emphasizing her marital status as "MRS":

Tatum: It's your anniversary, Mrs. Minosa....Go on, open it. He wants you to have it.
Lorraine: (ungratefully as she read the label) Parisian Furs. All the way from Albuquerque. Gorgeous, isn't it? They must have skinned a couple of hungry rats.

She snidely rejected the gift of a stringy, cheap mink stole wrap, and tossed it onto the floor: "Honey, you wouldn't want me to wear a thing like this...I got enough money to buy me a real fur, a silver fox...I hate it, Chuck...It's like him touching me," but Tatum picked up the wrap, slung it around her neck, and insisted that she wear it as he pulled it tighter and began to strangle her: "He wants you to wear it...Don't take it off!" Tatum reminded Lorraine that Leo still loved and cared for her:

You know what he said? He said you'll look like a million....You know what else he said? He said maybe you'll love him now after what's happened to him. Maybe you and he can start all over again...You're all he talks about. You're all he thinks about....You can buy yourself a dozen silver foxes, but you're gonna wear this!

She struggled to free herself and complained that she couldn't breathe, when he tightened his grip on her even more: "He can't breathe, either." Suddenly in self-defense, in the film's most shocking moment, she stabbed him in the lower right side of his gut with the pair of scissors in her hand.

[Note: Remember the words Tatum used to describe his 'human interest' story to Boot: "Right in the gut, Mr. Boot. Human interest."]

Tatum released his grip on her as she stood up to confront him. His last words to her before he left were: "Now keep it on."

Last Rites and the Aftermath:

As Tatum descended the stairs, he held his jacket - while applying pressure - over his wounded and aching right side. With a siren blaring, he sped away in the Deputy Sheriff's car to the local adobe, white-stucco church in Escudero where he parked and went inside to summon Father Diego (Lester Dorr). Curious, presumably poor young neighborhood boys loitering outside gathered around the vehicle in Tatum's absence. They fled when the siren accidentally activated and Tatum appeared with the priest.

The two returned to the crowded cliff-dwelling mesa area and immediately entered the narrow, twisting, and dark passageway to reach the dying Leo. On the way, Tatum stuffed a handkerchief under his waistband as a makeshift wound bandage. The pounding drill incessantly reverberated through the cave, sending showers of dirt and rocks from the disintegrating walls in a minor rock-slide. When the two came upon a delirious Leo who was faintly singing his favorite military tune - "The Hut-Sut Song," and seemed barely alive. He inquired about Lorraine's present ("How does she like it? Does she look pretty in it?"), and Tatum assured him that she was wearing it.

After six days of being unnecessarily trapped in the cave-in, the pneumonia-stricken Leo was prepared to die and told them: "I'm ready." Last rites were administered by Father Diego, to absolve Leo of his sin as he confessed: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I'm sorry." The priest extended a stick with a wad of cotton (dipped in holy oil) on the end of it, to reach out to Leo's forehead, to anoint him, and to make the sign of the cross. He also intoned a blessing in Latin. At the same moment, with the camera squarely placed on Tatum's face, the mortally-wounded reporter was also utterly remorseful and "sorry" - and seeking absolution for his own sins.

Outside the cave, a devastated Tatum heard Smollett on top of the mountain yelling orders to his crew: "What's holding up those oil drums? Send them up!" With great strain, Tatum jumped onto an open cage (holding the oil drums) being hoisted upward - and when deposited on top of the cliff, he ordered Smollett to immediately stop the drilling. He then turned to speak to the crowds (with the assist of a PA system). He ordered that the rides and carnival music cease, and after announcing Leo's death, he told the crowds to go home:

This is Charles Tatum speaking! Listen to me! Listen! Listen! Leo Minosa is dead. He died a quarter of an hour ago with the drill just 10 feet away. There's nothing we can do any more. There's nothing anybody can do. He's dead. Do you hear me? Now go on home, all of you! The circus is over.

There were varied reactions to Tatum's grim announcement:

  • male members of the audience silently removed their hats in sympathy, and some knelt or crossed themselves
  • in the Press Tent, McCardle, Jessop and Morgan raced to the phone bank in a frenzy to report the new exclusive story on the news-wires -- Minosa's death!
  • an exodus of cars and TV vans from the site kicked up dust as they dispersed
  • the Federber family disassembled their trailer-awning; Mrs. Federber tossed away wilted and dead flowers from a vase, and cried into her handkerchief - [Note: They had originally said they were "just stopping by to take a look...just a half an hour" before continuing on their way to a fishing and boating vacation, but had remained for the entire week!]
  • the self-loathing Tatum joined those who were walking away as he made a torturous trudge down to the trading post - traces of blood were visible on his right side
  • the large circus tent rented from the Amusement Company was lowered
  • after hearing the news, Lorraine (without the wrap) turned away from her window and soon emerged from the trading post's second floor apartment with her suitcase - dressed for travel and finally free; however, she remained an outcast and undesirable - she was unable to hail a departing bus and was last seen walking away from the camera amidst the stream of departing cars that were beginning to clog the highway; she vainly sought a hitchhiking ride to escape

Inside the trading post (mostly cleared out), the contemptuous trio of rival big-city newspapermen - McCardle, Jessop, and Morgan - were waiting for Tatum's arrival - they were ready to turn the tables on him. Mama Minosa was crying. In the downstairs trading post bedroom, Herbie informed Tatum that the enraged Nagel in New York had ordered the removal of the teletypewriter. Herbie was astounded that Tatum had neglected to send exclusive copy to Nagel about Minosa's death. In the meantime, the story had been leaked to all the other papers, and Nagel had fired Tatum: "Where were you? What's the idea of not protecting your own paper? You had it all for yourself. You had it first. He told me to tell you you're fired."

As the numbed and drained Tatum laid on the bed in pain and took a drink of whiskey, the gloating newspapermen mocked his failure: "Had everything sewed up, didn't you, Tatum? Everything but the payoff. What slipped up?...Booze yourself out of another job, fan? The great Tatum....Where do you go from here, Tatum? Maybe the kid can get you a job on a high school paper." They mercilessly tormented and ridiculed Tatum - and told him how the unscrupulous Sheriff was still planning a celebratory funeral for Minosa:

Here's a hot tip. We just got it from the Sheriff. He's gonna dig Leo out yet and give him a big send-off...See you in New York when you pick up that Pulitzer Prize.

Tatum pushed the men out and slammed the door behind them before speaking to Nagel. Transmogrified, he valiantly attempted to confess his failure and his personal complicity in Minosa's orchestrated death (or 'murder') - he now stressed that there was a 'real story' (or another 'ace in the hole') behind the story:

Sure. Sure, I let ya down. I know they're on the street, the other papers. Sure, sure. Everybody else got the story. Only it's the wrong story. Shut up, I said! Leo Minosa didn't die. He was murdered.

Nagel was exasperated with Tatum and disbelieving of his new angle on the story:

Is that the best you can think of? Stop it, Tatum. You're wasting your breath. Now let me tell you the story behind the story. You got drunk yesterday, you were drunk all night, and you're still drunk! All right, I'm crazy! But it's only because I took a chance on you!

Tatum attempted to convince Nagel of his truthfulness, and suggested a new sensational "Tatum special" headline to publish:

And I'm giving you your money's worth, a Tatum special. Something that'll make all the other papers look sick. Hey, Nagel, you wouldn't be sap enough to hang up on me. Not now. Listen to this. "Reporter Keeps Man Buried For Six Days!" Now get set for the rest of it.

But ironically, Nagel refused to understand and listen to Tatum's revised explanation after being hood-winked so many times by him. Nagel abruptly hung up - missing the real scoop. Now with Tatum's strength and power entirely drained, he was uncertain about everything and asked Herbie (whose face was darkened with Tatum's dark shadow): "You believe me, don't you?" Herbie was the only person left to "believe" in Tatum, and responded: "Yes, I do, Chuck." As they left the bedroom, Tatum stated that contrary to his promise to re-elect the Sheriff, his main intention was to ruin the Sheriff's political ambitions - if he was able to deliver and reveal his version of the truth in time:

We've got things to do. Like, for instance, re-elect a Sheriff. Come on, fan. We got a deadline.

The two were about to drive away from the deserted and desolate trading post in their PRESS vehicle. They glanced over at the forlorn and tragic figure of Papa Minosa, who was slowly moving across the flat and dusty mesa, now completely devoid of people. He looked up at the "PROCEEDS GO TO LEO MINOSA RESCUE FUND" sign after everyone's departure - with litter blowing by him in the wind.

The Conclusion - Back in the Sun-Bulletin Office:

After a subdued but speedy trip back to Albuquerque, arriving at around 10:30 pm, Herbie assisted Tatum into the bustling office of the Sun-Bulletin. Tatum's former employees were feverishly getting ready to go to press and paid little attention. During their dramatic entrance, Tatum purposefully pushed Herbie toward his desk area: "Sit down. That's your desk. Now go to work." He turned to face everyone and asked: "What's the matter with everybody? Haven't you ever seen me before? Go on! It's getting late! Your paper starts printing in an hour." Weakened and in pain, he then stumbled toward and approached his former boss' open office door and called out his name: "Mr. Boot! Boot! Mr. Boot! Where's Boot?" but the office was empty.

The bleeding and defeated journalist Tatum heard Boot call his name from the press-room. Tatum turned toward Boot and with the last bit of his strength that he could muster, he walked toward Boot with another cut-rate, sacrificial proposition - similar to the one he offered Boot at the start of the film:

How'd you like to make yourself a $1,000 dollars a day, Mr. Boot? I'm a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman. You can have me for nothin'.

The final low-angled shot was a close-up of Tatum's face on the floor. He had collapsed after falling forward toward Boot's feet - he was frozen and staring straight at the condemned audience, complicit in his dirty dealings.

[Note: According to the Hays Production Code in strong effect at the time, Tatum would not be allowed to profit from his corrupt misdealings. Finally feeling remorse, he struggled to make amends (i.e., he sought a priest for Leo, attempted to forcefully strangle Lorraine, demanded that Herbie return to his old job, etc.), but ultimately was punished by his own death.]


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