Billy Wilder made Ace in the Hole as a follow-up to the acclaimed Sunset Boulevard, essentially writing his own ticket in Hollywood. The story he opted to make was a cruel indictment of the American media, one which has only become more accurate and biting over the years. The film opens with reporter Chuck Tatum, a refugee from big city newspapers who's now stuck in a desolate New Mexico town. Desperate to get back on top (and earn enough money to feed his drinking habit), he stumbles upon the perfect story after toiling away for a miserable year in the sticks: A treasure hunter (a looter, if you will) has gotten stuck in a cave-in in some old Indian caves. Guy in a well: That'll sell papers, right?
Continue reading: Ace In The Hole Review
Sturges loved fake beginnings, and this is one of his best. We open on a knock-down, brawling fight on (and below) a train that's roaring through the mountains at night. The two men finally knock each other off into the raging river, and the screen reads: THE END, after which we find out that it's a film being screened for a couple worried executives by a very popular comic filmmaker, John Sullivan (Joel McCrea), who's trying to break out of his niche, going on about holding a mirror up to life and painting a "true canvas" of humanity's suffering. Chagrined to discover that the suits don't think his silver-spoon upbringing entitles him to know anything about the human condition, Sullivan hits the road with ten cents in his pocket (kitted out in authentic bum-wear from the studio wardrobe) to find out something about it. He spends the rest of the film trying to get away from the suits (worried about losing their golden goose), and striving to find realism. At first he doesn't succeed, accidentally ending up back in Hollywood time and again, but eventually Sullivan gets a little more realism than he had intended.
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