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Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) is a 1951 film directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Kirk Douglas.

Chuck Tatum is an abrasive, tough reporter looking for a chance to make a name with a big new, unfortunately he’s stuck in a little town where almost nothing happens. One day, while going to report rattlesnake hunting, a man called Leo Minosa gets trapped inside a mine. Tatum sees this as his big chance and tries to squeeze the new for all its worth, convincing the local sheriff and engineer to prolong the rescue labor at least for a week.

One of the most famous movies about irresponsible reporting out there. It wasn’t very well received when it was first released, but with time it has found new respect from the critics.

Not to be confused with the 1942 Woody Woodpecker short of the same name.

Tropes used in Ace in the Hole include:


  Chuck Tatum: I can handle big news and little news. And if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog.

  • Manipulative Bastard: Tatum.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Chuck has his BSOD when he realizes Leo is dying because he prolonged the rescue efforts.
  • Police Are Useless: And more than willing to cooperate if you promise the sheriff a reelection, it seems.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The plot was inspired by two real-life events. Cave explorer W. Floyd Collins was trapped in a cave in 1925, and a three-year-old girl, Kathy Fiscus fell into an abandoned well in 1949. Just like in the film, the victims became media sensations and died before they were rescued.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily cynical.
  • Vindicated by History: Audiences and critics were originally turned off by the movie's extreme cynicism about news reporters and police officers. Now the movie is a well-regarded part of Roger Ebert's Great Movies list and the Criterion Collection.
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