Kirk Douglas stars in the 1951 film Ace In The Hole, which tells the story of Charles Tatum, a newspaper reporter in search of a big story.

While working at a small newspaper in New Mexico, Tatum sensationalizes the story of a man trapped in a cave. Tatum hopes to receive national attention that will eventually lead to a job at a major market newspaper.

The film highlights the dark side of the news media, from the people who report it to the audience that consumes it.


Paramount Pictures still of Kirk Douglas in Ace In The Hole (1951)

Bad news sells best. Cause good news is no news.

Charles Tatum

Ace In The Hole-Trailer from Paramount Pictures

True stories

According to, actor Victor Desny filed a lawsuit against director Billy Wilder claiming that Desny owned the rights to the story on which it was based.  That story was about a man named Floyd Collins who had been trapped in a cave in Kentucky in 1925.

The lawsuit would eventually go before the California Supreme Court, which ruled in Desny’s favour.

The story of Floyd Collins was reported by William Burke “Skeets” Miller who worked for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Miller interviewed Floyd Collins a number of times from inside the cave. Miller was one of the few people small enough to get inside the cave.

His reports made national newspaper headlines and the story was even broadcast by the first licensed radio station in the U.S. called KDKA. The publicity led to a circus-like atmosphere, as people went to the Kentucky location to witness the event live.

William Miller would receive the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage.

 It’s a good story today. Tomorrow, they’ll wrap a fish in it.

Charles Tatum