June 20, 1951 [Ace in the Hole]

I haven’t thought of Floyd Collins, lying there in his glass-topped coffin in Crystal Cave, for many years. We all went down there once, driving to Kentucky, and stood in the cool hush before Floyd, the accidental mummy. Ace in the Hole digs him up so that Billy Wilder and Kirk Douglas can scold us for looking.

The theater was almost empty; I guess nobody wants to go to the movies to be chastised--well, more than that: hated and scorned, rubes that we are, gawking from our cars while the earth squeezes the life out of somebody. I thought the picture was fun, though: Douglas is a wonderful heel, his face constantly squeezed in bitter recognition, his hands curled beneath the weight of his ambition. And it’s a great picture to look at, dry and open, the sky watching too, without blinking.

The movies want to keep us happy, so it’s no wonder that something like Ace in the Hole is failing. But I watched it, and thought of von Stroheim and Tourneur, and Griffith and even Edison at times, thrusting the mirror in our faces, like Diogenes with his lamp, searching doggedly but vainly for one human being.


  1. Wilder never failed to keep me glued and no less in this.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts