Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“It's a good story today…tomorrow they'll wrap a fish in it…”

Spectacle and sensationalism as presented by the media—be it print, broadcast or online—is certainly nothing new throughout recorded history but to make a motion picture that portrayed the fourth estate is a less than flattering light got director Billy Wilder in trouble sixty years ago on this date in theaters.  Wilder followed up his corrosive exposé on Hollywood, Sunset Blvd. (1950), with an equally pungent glimpse at a reporter who risks the life of an individual trapped in a cave-in in order to exploit the man’s predicament in front page headlines and secure his ticket back to the newspaper equivalent of “the big leagues.”  The movie is Ace in the Hole (1951), and before its release on DVD by Criterion in 2007 tracking it down was indeed a Herculean chore.  AMC showed the film a few times back in its glory days—under the nom de cinema “The Big Carnival,” which is what Paramount re-titled it in an effort to get the public to see something they already peeped and had exercised their moviegoers veto (Hole was a huge critical and financial flop for Wilder, who had been hitting nothing but home runs since his directorial debut in 1942)—but unless you were lucky to see it then your only option was a repertory theatre or to find somebody who had had the foresight to grab it with their VCR (because it simply wasn’t available on VHS).

Ace in the Hole is one of my favorites in the voluminous oeuvre of Wilder’s, and I worked up a little tribute to the movie over at Edward Copeland on Film…and More.  That will probably have to do everybody for the next couple of days or so because I’ve got a deadline with an outside project and I’m a bit behind (and shouldn’t be).  But if you’re standing by a Netflix queue or see this title at the next online Criterion sale I can’t urge you enough to snap up a copy—I put it on for the ‘rents the other night and they even gave it a hearty thumbs up…though my Mom said: “I knew what the outcome of this was going to be.”  (If you haven’t seen it, you’ll probably need to hold off reading my ECOF piece until you do because I do sort of give the ending away.)

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Page said...

I had to come over and see what you're up to now Ivan. Yep, as I thought you've been busy.

Heading over to read your write up on Ace in the Hole.

Looking forward to what you have up your sleeve next.

Rich said...

This would work great on a double bill with 'Sweet Smell of Success.' When I first saw it, I was a little disturbed at the level of cynicism and bitterness in Kirk Douglas' character. I can understand how 50s audiences weren't ready for it back then.

MovieNut14 said...

Ooh, Rich has the right idea there with that double bill. Might do that.

ClassicBecky said...

Saw this on TV with my Dad when I was a kid. I don't understand -- it's a truly great movie. No, it's not Disney happy happy -- I was more upset when Dad told me it was based on a true story about Floyd Collins. I thought Douglas was incredible. I think The Big Carnival is a better name anyway, to describe what happened in this horrible situation. Good one to spotlight, Ivan. I'll go over and look at your article.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I think The Big Carnival is a better name anyway

I'm actually inclined to agree with you, though I do get the significance of its original title. And another good suggestion for a film to be double-billed with Ace in the Hole (as suggested by director Spike Lee) would be A Face in the Crowd.