Ace in the Hole (1951) Poster

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  • No. Ace in the Hole was written by director Billy Wilder and screenwriters Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, inspired by two real-life events. One involved a 1925 cave-in in Sand Cave, Kentucky in which W. Floyd Collins was trapped. His story was covered by newspaper reporter William Burke Miller of the Louisville Courier-Journal and became a media sensation. The second involved the attempted rescue in 1949 of three-year-old Kathy Fiscus of San Marino, California when she fell into an abandoned well. The rescue operation lasted for several days, also creating a media sensation when thousands of people arrived to watch the action unfold. Unfortunately, both victims died before they were reached by rescuers.

  • "Ace in the Hole" is a slang expression meaning a secret or extra asset to assure success, referring to the ace playing card a player has as a hole card (or face down card) in a game of stud poker. Here the expression has a double meaning. Chuck Tatum has been searching for an "ace" news story that will return him to the big leagues of journalism; the story he chooses happens to concern a man literally stuck in a "hole."

  • After Tatum [Kirk Douglas] gives his speech to the crowd, which is after he's been stabbed with scissors, he goes back to his office at the trading post and tries to call the New York paper from which he was fired. When he gets through, his boss chews him out. Tatum tries to confess to what he had done, but his boss had already hung up. Tatum and the kid return to the Sun-Bulletin, where Tatum asks Mr. Boot, "How'd you like to make a thousand dollars a day? I'm a thousand dollar a day newspaper man, but you can have me for nothing!" Then he collapses and dies from his wound.


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