xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Is the Chilean miners' story cable's 'Ace in the Hole?'

The rescue of the Chilean miners -- a swift, humane, effective response to a catastrophe -- provided inspiring contrasts to the BP oil spill. But as cable news relentlessly replayed the drama and some miners ran for cover from the coverage, the aftermath reminded me of Billy Wilder's classic expose of how the press exploits disaster, "Ace in the Hole" (1951). Kirk Douglas (left) stars in Wilder's prescient slam at media frenzy as a flashy New York reporter who gets exiled to New Mexico but then lands a sensational scoop. The collapsing rock and sand of a sacred Indian burial cavern have trapped a treasure-hunter who also runs the local trading post and diner. The reporter doesn't merely run with the story. He extends it into a record-breaking front-page marathon by manipulating the local sheriff to delay the rescue. "Ace in the Hole" draws on Wilder's firsthand knowledge of journalism -- he was a reporter in Vienna and Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s -- as well as elements of real-life disasters, especially the Sand Cave, Kentucky landslide that trapped W. Floyd Collins. This movie boasts the harsh tang of bitter experience, from Wilder and from Douglas, too, who radiates alpha-male appetites with a scary intensity and killer instinct. Skewering sleaze merchants such as Douglas' character, Wilder hits an even bigger target: the packaged reality of "human interest stories." Have you ever seen this controversial Wilder classic? If you have, do you agree with me about its pertinence to media practices today? For me, it's as relevant to the new and old media as Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" is to contemporary poltical demagoguery.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement