Ace in the Hole (1951) Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder
Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum and Porter Hall as Jacob Q. Boot

Tatum: I’m a pretty good liar. I’ve done a lot of lying in my time. I’ve lied to men who wear belts. I’ve lied to men who wear suspenders. But I’d never be so stupid as to lie to a man who wears both belt and suspenders.
Mr. Boot: How’s that again?
Tatum: You strike me as a cautious man, a man who checks and double checks, so I’ll tell you why I was fired. In New York a story of mine brought on a libel suit. In Chicago I started something with the publisher’s wife. In Detroit I was caught drinking out of season. In Cleveland…
Mr. Boot: I get the picture.
Tatum: Now then, I find myself in Albuquerque with no money, a burnt out bearing, bad tires and a lousy reputation.
Mr. Boot: Bad tires can be dangerous.
Tatum: I’ve only one chance to get back where I belong: to land a job on a small town paper like yours and wait and hope and pray for something big to break, something I can latch on to, something the wire services will gobble up and yell for more. Just one good beat, a Tatum special, and they’ll roll out the red carpet, ’cause when they need you, they forgive and forget. But until then, Mr. Boot, you’ll get yourself the best newspaper man you ever had… at forty per. When do I start?
Mr. Boot: Don’t push.
Tatum: I hope I haven’t scared you off.
Mr. Boot: Well, I don’t know. I’m not afraid of a libel suit because I’m a lawyer myself. Check and double check every word I print.
Tatum: Sure, belt and suspenders.
Mr. Boots: About that publisher’s wife. I think you should know Mrs. Boot is a grandmother three times. If you want to start something with her, she’d be very flattered. As for drinking, do you drink a lot?
Tatum: Not a lot, just frequently.

8 Responses to “Ace in the Hole (1951)”

  1. Crackling good dialogue in one of the most caustic and cynical films ever made, one of four indisputable Wilder masterpieces with DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SUNSET BOULEVARD and THE APARTMENT (yes some would add SOME LIKE IT HOT I know) and the most scathing condemnation of the press ever filmed.

  2. This was probably the last of the great Billy Wilders I got around to seeing. Love it.

    Kirk Douglas has a tendency to overact and it’s the rare role that is able to contain him and this is one of them.

  3. Ahem, I think you’re forgetting about a little movie called 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. OK, so maybe he hammed it up in that one, but what the hell- dude gets drunk with a seal!

    Also, have you seen ONE, TWO, THREE? If that’s not considered a “great” Wilder, it damn well ought to be.

  4. I have not forgotten 20,000 Leagues! A childhood favorite and one of the ones big enough to contain Kirk. Spartacus and The Bad and the Beautiful also included.

    I haven’t seen One, Two, Three in many many years. Maybe it’s time for a revisit.

  5. One of the things I love about 20K LEAGUES is that there’s room for some serious acting from James Mason as he philosophizes about the state of the world and its people, but there’s also big blockbuster effects and action for the kids. Then there’s also this corner of the story cordoned off for Kirk to get drunk and stumble around shirtless. Something for everybody!

  6. I might be alone in my love of THE FURY, but it’s certainly outsize and ridiculous enough for Kirk’s acting style.

  7. Paul, you are not alone in your love of The Fury. Douglas is generally better as a heavy…

  8. Sign me up for The Fury too.

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