Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Ace in the Hole (1951)


Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Ace in the Hole (1951) (aka The Big Carnival)

In director/co-writer Billy Wilder's uncompromising, scathing and harsh noirish commentary on the sensationalizing media:

  • the powerful character of Charles 'Chuck' Tatum (Kirk Douglas): a belligerent, self-obsessed, unscrupulous big-city newspaper reporter working for the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin (with its hand-embroidered motto "Tell the Truth") - with his contemptuous rant about how he missed New York after being stuck in New Mexico for a year: ("...Too much outdoors. Give me those eight spindly trees in front of Rockefeller Center any day. That's enough outdoors for me...)
  • his stage-managing of an "ace in the hole" media-frenzied story - an orchestrated rescue operation of good-hearted Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), adult son of a trading post owner, trapped by a cave-in of rocks 250 feet inside an ancient, haunted Indian cliff dwelling (Mountain of the Seven Vultures) while looting it of artifacts in the remote town of Escudero, 3 hours' drive from Albuquerque
  • also, his sleazy scheming with Leo's long-suffering, jaded, and unhappy femme fatale wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling) after five years of unfilfilled marriage to both hustle the situation, who first considered running off - (Tatum: "Got a little jump on him this time, huh? Can't run after ya, not lyin' there with those rocks on his legs." Lorraine: "Look who's talkin'! Much you care about Leo. I'm on to you. You're workin' for a newspaper. All you want is something you can print. Honey, you like those rocks just as much as I do"), but later reconsidered after Tatum suggested that there would be monetary rewards for staying and pretending to be a grieving wife: ("There's gonna be real dough in that cash register by tonight. When they bleached your hair, they must have bleached your brains too") - she was easily persuaded by the promise of revenue from gathering throngs to remain with her ailing husband - the Trailways bus pulled away to reveal Lorraine walking back inside
  • the scene of Tatum siding with local corrupt Sheriff Gus Kretzer (Ray Teal) up for re-election: "What did ya have? A pair of deuces. This is better. Here we've got an ace in the hole"
  • the frenzied, scenes at the rescue site - looking like a drive-in theatre with tourists, a literal circus (S & M) amusement park and carnival, a camp ground, rising admission prices, etc.
  • the shocking scene of Lorraine stabbing Tatum in the lower waist with a pair of scissors as he strangled her with a cheap mink stole (Leo's present to her for their 5th anniversary)
  • the scene of last rites being administered by a priest to pneumonia-stricken Leo after 6 days of being unnecessarily trapped in the cave-in, and Tatum's speech to the crowds to go home after Leo's death: ("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 anymore. There's nothing anybody can do. He's dead. Do you hear me? Now go on home, all of you! The circus is over")
Ending Sequence
Tatum's Speech
"Rescue Fund" Sign

Tatum's Collapse
Tatum Falling Dead:
"You can have me for nothing"
  • the sight of Leo's forlorn Papa Minosa (John Berkes) looking at the "Rescue Fund" sign after everyone's departure - with litter blowing in the wind
  • and the final low-angled shot of bleeding, defeated journalist Tatum collapsing at the feet of his editor-in-chief Mr. Jacob Q. Boot (Porter Hall): ("How'd you like to make yourself a thousand dollars a day, Mr. Boot? I'm a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman. You can have me for nothing")

Tatum's Rant About Missing New York

News-Story: Cave-In

Chuck Tatum with Trapped Man's Wife Lorraine

Tatum with Corrupt Sheriff

The Rescue Site

Tatum Strangling Lorraine

Dying Leo in Cave-In


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