Ace in the Hole

Synopsis: 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.
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir
Director(s): Billy Wilder
Production: Paramount Pictures
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
111 min

Hey. Pull up at the corner.

Wait here.


Good afternoon, sir.


I'd like to see the boss.

What'd you say his name is?

- I didn't say.

- Cagey, huh?

Mr Boot is the owner and publisher.

Okay. Tell Mr Boot Mr Tatum

would like to see him.

Charles Tatum from New York.

What about?

Look, fan, just ask him,

how would he like to make

himself a fast $200 a week?

What did you say you

were selling? Insurance?

I didn't say.

Cagey, huh?

Now, isn't that something?

Who said it?

Well, Mr Boot said it,

but I did the needlework.


- Okay.

- I wish I could coin them like that.

If I ever do, would you

embroider it for me?

- Mr Tatum?

- Yes, sir.

Go ahead. What is it?

Well, Mr Boot, I was passing

through Albuquerque.

Had breakfast here.

Read your paper.

Thought you might be

interested in my reaction.

- You bet I am.

- Well, sir, it made me throw up.

I don't want you to think I

expected The New York Times.

But even for Albuquerque,

this is pretty Albuquerque.

All right. Here's your nickel back.

Now, what's all this about

my making $200 a week?

Apparently, you're not

familiar with my name.

Can't say that I am.

That's because you don't get

the eastern papers out here.

I thought maybe once in a while

somebody would toss one

out of the Super Chief

and you might've seen my byline.

Charles Tatum? Worked New

York, Chicago, Detroit...

- What about the $200?

- I was coming to that.

Mr Boot, I'm a $250-a-week


- I can be had for $50.

- Why are you so good to me?

I know newspapers backward,

forward and sideways.

I can write them, edit them, print

them, wrap them and sell them.

- Don't need anybody right now.

- I can handle big news and little news.

And if there's no news,

I'll go out and bite a dog.

- Make it $45.

- What makes you so cheap?

A fair question, considering I've

been top man wherever I've worked.

You'll be glad to know that

I've been fired from 11 papers

with a total circulation

of seven million,

for reasons with which I

don't want to bore you.

Go ahead. Bore me.

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.

- How's that again?

- 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...

- I get the picture.

Now, then I find myself in

Albuquerque with no money.

A burnt-out bearing, bad tyres

and a lousy reputation.

Bad tyres can be dangerous.

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.

Because when they need you,

they forgive and forget.

But until then, Mr Boot,

you'll get yourself the best

newspaperman you ever had.

- At $40 per. When do I start?

- Don't push.

- I hope I haven't scared you off.

- 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.

Sure. Belt and suspenders.

Now, about that publisher's wife,

I think you should know Mrs Boot

is a grandmother three times.

If you wanna start something with

her, she'd be very flattered.

And as for drinking,

do you drink a lot?

Not a lot. Just frequently.

We have a shop rule here,

no liquor on the premises.

- How about smoking?

- Of course.

And I pay $60 a week in this shop.

I'll take it.

Where's my desk?

The one by the door. You may

be out of here by Saturday.

The sooner the better.

Thanks, Geronimo. Take these

over to the engraver's.

What's this mess?

They haven't got any

chopped chicken livers.

I brought you some chicken tacos.

Chicken tacos?

They're not gonna chop the

livers any more for you.

Nobody else will buy them.

And no more garlic pickles.

When the history of this

sun-baked Siberia is written,

these shameful words

will live in infamy.

"No chopped chicken liver."

"No garlic pickles."

No Lindy's. No Madison

Square Garden.

No Yogi Berra.

What do you know about

Yogi Berra, Miss Deverich?

- I beg your pardon?

- Yogi Berra!

Yogi? Why, it's a sort

of religion, isn't it?

You bet it is. A belief

in the New York Yankees.

You know what's wrong with

New Mexico, Mr Wendel?

Too much outdoors.

Give me those eight spindly trees in

front of Rockefeller Center any day.

That's enough outdoors for me.

No subways smelling sweet-sour.

What do you use for

noise around here?

No beautiful roar from

eight million ants,

fighting, cursing, loving.

No shows. No South Pacific.

No chic little dames

across a crowded bar.

And worst of all, Herbie,

no 80th floor to jump from

when you feel like it.

Is this one of your

long-playing records, Chuck?

Let's hear the other side.

All right. I'll play it for you.

When I came here, I thought this was

gonna be a 30-day stretch, maybe 60.

Now it's a year.

It looks like a life sentence.

Where is it? Where's the loaf

of bread with a file in it?

Rate this script:4.0 / 2 votes

Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist, whose career spanned more than fifty years and sixty films. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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