Movies about the Media: Ace in the Hole

THE reporter who’ll do anything to get a story?

Kirk Douglas plays – says the movie website, IMDb – “a frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper [who] exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career”.

But, in this classic from 1951, “the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus”.

Directed by Billy Wilder, Ace in the Hole also stars Jan Sterling and Robert Arthur.

Ratings on both IMDb and Amazon are consistently four or five stars.

Says Wikipedia: “The story is a biting examination of the seedy relationship between the Press, the news it reports and the manner in which it reports it.”

Watch the trailer, here:

Find out more about the plot, here.

Buy it, here.

Says Tom Brown, former political editor at the Daily Record – among several other achievements: “Ace in the Hole made a great impression on me because it arrived in Kirkcaldy just when I started in newspapers. It had some great lines including, “Bad news sells best, ’cause good news is no news” and “How’d you like to make a thousand dollars? I’m a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman but you can have me for nothing”.

“Here’s the story of how, when I was in Fleet Street, I stole a line from another film about a newspaperman: At the very beginning of what is laughingly called my career, I was inspired by a film called Come Fill the Cup in which James Cagney played an alcoholic reporter and I wanted to emulate him – which I did, almost in both senses.

“Opening scene: Cagney, hat on back of head and with that characteristic strut, walks into a newsroom from covering a plane crash. The aircraft had dropped out of the sky near a small town in the middle of nowhere. Cagney puts paper in the typewriter and writes: “And all the dead were strangers…”

His editor looks over his shoulder and says something like: “Great intro. But it was a week ago and you’ve been drunk ever since. You’re fired.”

Years later, I was on a job in Brussels when the Express foreign desk phoned and said the trans-Europe express had crashed at a level crossing. By the time I got there, the corpses had been laid out in the local school hall. Locals were speculating how many families from how many countries would be bereft by the bodies lying on the floor.

“I did the traditional, “Anyone here speak English?” Up came the chief accident inspector for Belgian National Railways, who gave me the whole story.

“I went off to a local bar, opened a line to London and dictated: “All the dead were strangers …”

Plagiarism? Maybe – but I bet nobody else can say they nicked an intro from James Cagney.