Ace in the Hole (1951)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir  |  29 June 1951 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 17,886 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 146 user | 128 critic | 6 from

A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Herbie Cook (as Bob Arthur)
Porter Hall ...
Al Federber
Richard Benedict ...
Leo Minosa
Lewis Martin ...
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


Charles Tatum, a down-on-his-luck reporter, takes a job with a small New Mexico newspaper. The job is pretty boring until he finds a man trapped in an old Indian dwelling. He jumps at the chance to make a name for himself by taking over and prolonging the rescue effort, and feeding stories to major newspapers. He creates a national media sensation and milks it for all it is worth - until things go terribly wrong. Written by John Oswalt <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Rough, tough Chuck Tatum, who battered his way to the top ... trampling everything in his path - men, women and morals !


Drama | Film-Noir


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

29 June 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Big Carnival  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,821,052 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The studio constructed a replica cliff dwelling at a cost of $30,000. The set was located behind the Lookout Point Trading Post on U.S. Route 66, west of Gallup, New Mexico. After filming was completed, the set was left intact and the owner of the trading post used it to draw tourists to his store. See more »


When Tatum and Boot are talking in the Minosa's back room, the amount of alcohol Tatum pours in his glass changes. See more »


[first lines]
Charles Tatum: Hey. Pull up at the corner.
See more »


Referenced in Chicken Run (2000) See more »


The Hut-Sut Song
Written by Leo Killion, Ted McMichael and Jack Owens
Sung by Richard Benedict and Kirk Douglas
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A great film
7 January 2006 | by (Winchester, Mass.) – See all my reviews

One of Billy Wilder's great movies, with a superb acting job by Kirk Douglas as the cynical, glory-seeking and even desperate reporter whose only goal is get back in the limelight by regaining his former big-city news desk job.

The idea of such a newspaper reporter manipulating events to stretch out a story at the expense of and disregard for the victim still seems nearly inhuman, but Douglas' performance makes it instantly believable. The story scenario in which locals, then passers-by and finally distant tourists gravitate to and then make a festival or circus out of the event (the film was also released under the title "The Big Carnival") is supported by the real events on which the story was most likely based: the West VA mine disaster in 1925 that trapped miner Floyd Collins and was reported for 17 days, much as in the film, by local newspaperman Skeets Miller, who crawled into the mineshaft for face-to-face interviews with the trapped and doomed Collins.

This movie fits nicely into the Film Noir genre, although it takes place largely under the hot, harsh glare of the Arizona sun, highlighting the sweat and grime visible on the characters' skin and creating a visual metaphor for the sorry state of their souls. I wonder if Henri-Georges Clouzot saw this film before he began filming "The Wages of Fear," because the visually pervasive atmosphere of sweat and filth and opportunism are equally present in both.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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