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Author Topic: Ace in the Hole (1951)  (Read 10320 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: September 19, 2011, 06:13:37 AM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043338/

Cast (courtesy of imdb)


   Kirk Douglas    ...   Chuck Tatum
    Jan Sterling    ...   Lorraine Minosa
    Robert Arthur    ...   Herbie Cook (as Bob Arthur)
    Porter Hall    ...   Jacob Q. Boot
    Frank Cady    ...   Mr. Federber
    Richard Benedict    ...   Leo Minosa
    Ray Teal    ...   Sheriff Gus Kretzer
    Lewis Martin    ...   McCardle
    John Berkes    ...   Papa Minosa
    Frances Dominguez    ...   Mama Minosa
    Gene Evans    ...   Deputy Sheriff
    Frank Jaquet    ...   Sam Smollett
    Harry Harvey    ...   Dr. Hilton
    Bob Bumpas    ...   Radio Announcer
    Geraldine Hall    ...   Nellie Federber


10/10



The film flopped in the USA; I guess many critics couldn't handle the negative portrayal of the media like that. Paramount re-packaged it as "The Big Carnival," which didn't do anything to improve its box-office mojo.

I'd also like to hear your opinions on which is the better title? There are certainly very interesting meanings behind both.

I enjoyed the dvd commentary; there are some very interesting insights there. It's by a Brit named Neil Sinyard. He does not have a great voice and he speaks dryly, but the substance is very good. I hardly ever watch dvd commentaries, but since I loved this movie so much, i decided to watch this one. If you like this movie, i'd recommend that you watch the commentary.





Wilder's direction was outstanding. The "carnival" set was amazing. the cynicism was incredible. The commentator says that perhaps the reason Wilder did this and it was successful in Europe is that as a European himself, a Jew who had escaped the Nazis, he was much more cynical about the media (and probably authority in general) than American audiences in the 50's. Who knows -- that sounds like an interesting point, maybe there is truth to that. (Btw, It's interesting to think about the fact that Wilder made perhaps the two greatest films that criticize major media industries: this one RE: the news, and Sunset Boulevard RE: Hollywood. Whether there is a correlation or coincidental is an interesting discussion point).

 -- I have a problem with the waywith Sherrif Kretzer announces on the radio, (parahprasing) "When casting your vote for sherrif, don't base your vote on this incident at all." Plus the sign "Re-Elect Sherrif Kretzer." That's just a bit over the top. No matter how egotistical, narcissistic, career-drive, psychotic, or whatever, it was waaaay too blatant. Such slimy characters should be much more subtle about it, (except perhaps in private conversations, etc.) with the truth eventually coming out. That openly slimy stuff is not very believable. I wish the script had made them a bit more subtle. In general I feel that some of the sliminess would perhaps be a bit more believable if it would have been  more subtle. The only smll problem.

This is absolutely spectacular in every sense. The casting was fantastic, the performances were great, by Douglas and the supporting cast, across the board


and btw, in one of the early scenes, Tatum pokes fun at his editor who wears a belt and suspenders....


Further discussion (in the RTLMYS thread) RE: the ending can be found here http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=7645.msg151058#msg151058

« Last Edit: May 15, 2012, 02:50:45 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2011, 03:22:54 AM »

I also like the line "kneeling bags my nylons"  Azn

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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2011, 03:50:50 AM »

I remember this being quite noirish in story but not so much visually.

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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2011, 03:59:44 AM »

I remember this being quite noirish in story but not so much visually.

yeah, I agree. I have also discussed this with cj, (one of) our rsident noir expert(s).... (who btw considers everything a noir  Wink) but acknowledges that in at least in the visual aspects, this movie is less noirish than some others. I don't recall any use of the noir shadow lighting. But Douglas's character is a noir character... cj will chime in here soon enuf  Smiley

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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2011, 09:45:32 AM »

I never liked the finale. But it surely reinforces Wilder position as top Hollywood director of the '50's, bar none.

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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2011, 02:59:55 PM »

what is your problem with the finale? I think it's perfect

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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2011, 07:08:03 PM »

Douglas not being a sob to the end.

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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2011, 07:18:26 PM »

Douglas not being a sob to the end.

I don't understand what you mean....

he tries telling the true story at the end, out of frustration that his plan did not work out, and cuz now the only BIG story left is the one about how he manipulated this whole story. And ironically, now nobody wants to listen to him. It's not that he becomes "good" at all...

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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2011, 08:15:15 PM »

I don't understand what you mean....

he tries telling the true story at the end, out of frustration that his plan did not work out, and cuz now the only BIG story left is the one about how he manipulated this whole story. And ironically, now nobody wants to listen to him. It's not that he becomes "good" at all...

I mean his sympathizing with the man in the hole. He having second thoughts about his behaviour once the man dies. His not being cynical to the end. I never said he becomes "good".

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« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2011, 08:17:59 PM »

I mean his sympathizing with the man in the hole. He having second thoughts about his behaviour once the man dies. His not being cynical to the end. I never said he becomes "good".

I don't view him as ever sympathizing with Leo.

Sure, at the end he becomes desperate to get Leo out, but only so that he can save his "human interest" story; IMO at no point did Tatum ever show any true remorse or feelings for Leo's actual well-being

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« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2011, 01:28:51 AM »

I don't view him as ever sympathizing with Leo.

Sure, at the end he becomes desperate to get Leo out, but only so that he can save his "human interest" story; IMO at no point did Tatum ever show any true remorse or feelings for Leo's actual well-being

Last time I saw the movie was more than 30 years ago. When i'll fetch a dvd I'll be back.

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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2011, 09:50:28 AM »

As per usual, titoli and I completely agree. If the film had true noir spirit, Douglas would begin and end as an SOB. Instead, he starts to sympathize with the trapped man: he makes the feckless wife wear the fox stole, he goes and gets the priest personally to perform extreme unction, he announces the man's death to the people as a way of shaming them, he tries to tell the guy in New York the real story and when he refuses to listen, he goes back to the small town paper to write the story up. At every point, he's so high on his white horse that he neglects to get the medical attention he needs and so dies. Garbage.

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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2011, 10:07:20 AM »

As per usual, titoli and I completely agree. If the film had true noir spirit, Douglas would begin and end as an SOB. Instead, he starts to sympathize with the trapped man: he makes the feckless wife wear the fox stole, he goes and gets the priest personally to perform extreme unction, he announces the man's death to the people as a way of shaming them, he tries to tell the guy in New York the real story and when he refuses to listen, he goes back to the small town paper to write the story up. At every point, he's so high on his white horse that he neglects to get the medical attention he needs and so dies. Garbage.

as per usual, dj and I completely disagree.

IMO Tatum does begin and end as an SOB; he never feels true sympathy for Leo.

At the end, Tatum is desperate to get Leo out alive, but that is because as Tatum says, when you sell people the human interest story, they are also buying the happy ending. Leo's death kills Tatum's happy ending, and thus, his chance at lasting fame and recognition, and to get out of New Mexico. Similarly, he forces the wife to act as the "good wife" cuz that is part of the human interest story Tatum is creating and selling: the family man trapped, with his loving wife waiting tearfully for him to be freed, etc. Doesn't make for nearly the compelling story if the audience were to know that his wife doesn't give a damn about him. So the concern for Leo and the admonishment of his wife is all part of Tatum's game.

At the end, once Leo has died, killing Tatum's human interest story, Tatum now has only one BIG story left: to tell the story of how a newspaper,man manipulated the human interest story. It is not out of remorse, but because he is a "reporter" to the very end, going with the big story. And at the end, that is the only big story left.

I am not saying that Tatum has zero shred of humanity. Whether or not he ultimately feels a twang of regret is IMO unsettled; it's never shown clearly one way or the other, which is not a bad thing. I mean, Tatum IS an SOB. The fact that he may feel a tiny bit of guilt at the end in no way changes that.

However, as I understand your interpretation, dj, you believe Tatum basically makes a complete 180; truly feeling complete remorse for what he has done. I couldn't disagree more with that. At best, it's a possibility of a small bit of guilt, which is a) totally believable; and b) consistent with other classic noir characters. Consider eg. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity -- how she says something like "but just now, I have realized I can't shoot you." Is that real, or part of her game? No way to know for sure. Also the Jane Greer character in Out of the Past: for all the murder and treachery she has committed, she seems to really want to take off with the Mitchum character and live happily ever after with him. Does she genuinely love him; or is this just a way to get away with the money until she can find another way to screw him over? Again, no way to know for sure.

So whether you are looking at it from a believability perspective; and/or the perspective of the "noir character," I think Douglas's actions/emotions at the end work very well.

 I have no special love for noirs, any more or less than non-noir dramas/thrillers. So I am looking at it simply from the same "believability" aspect I take with all movie characters, and on that level it works just fine. However, even if you do want to look at it from the perspective of the "noir character," based on my very limited familiarity with noirs, I think it works just fine as well. Even noir SOB's can have some shred of humanity -- or at least, there can be some question as to whether or not they can have it.

Again, I don't think that Tatum does feel any true remorse; but even if you do believe that there is some ambiguity to that question, that works just fine, based on the preceding discussion I had with myself  Wink

if you want to argue that there is no ambiguity; rather, Tatum clearly has remorse, I strongly disagree with that interpretation of the movie. (If that interpretation were indeed true, I am unsure of whether or not I'd be happy with it -- either from what I call the "believability perspective," or from the "noir character perspective." But I never considered that possibility, cuz IMO Tatum never shows any clear remorse).





« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 10:41:45 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2011, 11:20:16 AM »

Interesting take. You've given me something to think about.

Still, you wonder why Douglas lets all the other newspapermen have the story of the guy dying without keeping any for himself. It may be that he is trying to sucker punch the competition--letting them have the putative story, and then coming back with the true gen (in a kind of reverse scoop). But if that's what's up, why doesn't Douglas seem to be more calculating toward the end? He looks like he's being swept along by events rather than stage-managing them. Sure, he's feeling the effects of his wound. But if he needs medical treatment, why doesn't he get it? Especially if he wants to put the "real" story out. Since he's both the writer and source for his story, wouldn't he, as a good newspaperman, want to protect his source? I suppose you can argue that he doesn't realize just how badly injured he is, but that seems to me a bit of a stretch.

I fault Wilder's direction to a point, but I also don't think the film is written as well as, say, Double Indemnity or Sunset B. or even Stalag 17.

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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2011, 11:40:58 AM »

Interesting take. You've given me something to think about.

Still, you wonder why Douglas lets all the other newspapermen have the story of the guy dying without keeping any for himself. It may be that he is trying to sucker punch the competition--letting them have the putative story, and then coming back with the true gen (in a kind of reverse scoop). But if that's what's up, why doesn't Douglas seem to be more calculating toward the end? He looks like he's being swept along by events rather than stage-managing them. Sure, he's feeling the effects of his wound. But if he needs medical treatment, why doesn't he get it? Especially if he wants to put the "real" story out. Since he's both the writer and source for his story, wouldn't he, as a good newspaperman, want to protect his source? I suppose you can argue that he doesn't realize just how badly injured he is, but that seems to me a bit of a stretch.

I fault Wilder's direction to a point, but I also don't think the film is written as well as, say, Double Indemnity or Sunset B. or even Stalag 17.

At the end, I think Tatum is kind of "losing it." He had planned this as his big escape from New Mexico and back into the big time, and his plans have slipped away just before he reaches the finish line. Inside, he is dead. I mean, you get the feeling that feels living and working for a paper in New Mexico ain't much of a living, and this was his chance at redemption. Once that is gone, Tatum is lost. Doesn't care about stuff anymore, perhaps. becomes depressed and apathetic.

RE: hos wounds: she had stabbed him with a scissor. Perhaps he had bled out slowly, partially unaware yet partially to proud to walk into the hospital in New Mexico, having been stabbed with a scissor by another man's wife.

 So I guess, in a certain sense, you can say that once Leo dies and Tatum loses what would have been his big break, he is dead inside. I am sure he doesn't literally realize he is bleeding to death -- is that a bit of a stretch? Perhaps. But the overarching issue is that for all intents and purposes, Tatum is now a dead man. In addition to having lost his shot at his big break, now he is trying to walk around and give a truly BIG story -- how a newspaperman created a crisis and had the country at his fingertips for a week -- and nobody wants to listen to him. Tatum has lived as a newspaperman -- to tell the story (or create the story  Wink) -- and now, nobody wants to listen to his story. That is a dead man.
(The physical death is perhaps a manifestation of his being "dead" inside (to go a little mystical about it ;-)) -- there is no way a man like Tatum can go on living now.

RE: your comparisons to other Wilder films: I think this film is on a similar level of greatness as Sunset Boulevard. As you know, I don't love Double Indemnity. And I have not yet seen Stalag 17 (it's in my queue)

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