Search All NYTimes.com
Thursday, October 14, 2010
N.Y. / RegionWorldU.S.N.Y. /
Advertise on NYTimes.com..
October 13, 2010, 5:17 pm
Finding Traces of Cinema in a Real-Life Rescue
By JAMES BARRON
Kirk Douglas stars in Billy Wilder’s 1951 drama “Ace in the Hole” — also known as “The Big Carnival.”
Kirk Douglas starred as a former big-time New York City newspaper reporter in possibly the greatest man-stuck-in-hole-while-media-watches movie of all time, Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole,” which came out in 1951. On Wednesday, like many of us, he watched as Chilean miners emerged from the earth one by one. City Room gave him a call and asked if it brought back memories.
“I tell you, I kept thinking about it,” he said by telephone from Los Angeles as he watched the rescue.
Mr. Douglas, now 93, played a reporter who had been working his way down the journalism ladder — until a man became trapped underground in New Mexico. Bingo: a big story, one sure to revive his career. If he could just keep the poor guy stuck in there long enough for the news to spread. (O.K. — it wasn’t exactly like the Chilean situation.)
Mr. Douglas remembered how the director explained the plot’s inherent appeal for the masses. He said that Wilder told him people were not drawn to floods or earthquakes the way they were drawn to disasters like the one in the movie. His words go quite a way toward explaining the worldwide fascination with the Chilean situation.
“I remember he said to me, ‘Kirk, one man or a couple of men trapped underground, they always respond to that, because they imagine themselves in that situation.’ Wilder, he made me think, how would I feel if I were trapped?” Mr. Douglas said. “Would I ever get out? It’s terrifying what I would have to go through.”
Of course, he did not have to go through it, not even while filming “Ace in the Hole,” which itself was inspired by real-life events. The reporter Mr. Douglas played, Chuck Tatum, manipulated the story as the rescue turned into a circus (in fact, Paramount Pictures changed the film’s title to “The Big Carnival” before it was released). But the man trapped underground was played by Richard Benedict.
''La patria sale enaltecida de esta prueba y ello debe alegrarnos y unirnos más a todos", José Miguel Insulza, Secretario General de la OEA.
''Esto me ha hecho pensar en 'El gran carnaval”, Kirk Douglas, actor norteamericano, recordando la película que protagonizara en 1951 en la que el rescate de un minero motivó un inusual despliegue periodístico.
Ace in the Hole
1. October 13, 2010 5:27 pm
As I watched the media massing at Camp Esperanza the other day, I also recalled this movie although I couldn’t think of the name. I remember watching it umpteen years ago on Saturday afternoon TV.
Clearly this rescue, and the media frenzy it has engendered, is an example of life mimicking art; rather than the other way around.
2. October 13, 2010 5:59 pm
I’m glad someone else caught the similarity to this excellent film. Everyone should see it, not that it would change anything.
3. October 13, 2010 6:47 pm
“Ace in the Hole”, and its depiction of a “media event” was one example of the craft of Billy Wilder and how far ahead of his time he was.
Like his 1961 “The Apartment”, which deals with office sexual politics in a manner unequaled until “Mad Men.”
4. October 13, 2010 7:22 pm
There were a lot of good movies in the 30’s and 40’s that focused on the newspaper business.
They made life as a gritty news reporter look glamorous, exciting and adventuresome.
Do you suppose all the college degrees have now made journalism look just like every other Ivy League profession?
— Perley J. Thibodeau
5. October 13, 2010 8:02 pm
Always nice to hear from the legendary Mr. Douglas. That the subject is the equally legendary Mr. Wilder and his brilliant film is icing on the cake.
— Mike C.
6. October 13, 2010 8:12 pm
You’re right, today more than ever – with the media deteriorating the way it is – people should watch this great movie.
It shows up on TCM every now and then.
7. October 13, 2010 8:16 pm
In the movie Kirk Douglas character orchestrated a drilling operation that that was not needed to rescue the man in the mine shaft in order to play out the story to the newspapers and ended up with a carnival complete with a ferris wheel on the site. The end result in the movie was the miner died in the shaft and the Douglas character got stabbed by his squeeze . Not much is similar to the professional rescue operation that is on going in Chile except for the miner that has his wife and squeeze waiting for him on the surface.
— JAMES FM
8. October 13, 2010 9:38 pm
“Ace In The Hole” was featured on Turner Classic Movies several years ago. I too kept thinking about the movie, and the song “We’re Coming, Leo”, as the Chilean rescue mission pressed onward.
TCM seems to look to current events in planning their schedule, so I’m hoping “Ace In The Hole” gets a well-deserved return soon.
9. October 13, 2010 10:09 pm
This is the first good thing to happen in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Can one use the word “first” three times in one sentence?
— anastasios sarikas
10. October 13, 2010 10:24 pm
What was the film of the same era about a small boy trapped in a deep hole in the ground?
11. October 13, 2010 10:25 pm
Ace in the Hole was based on Robert Penn Warren’s novel “The Cave,” which was in turn based on the real-life Floyd Collins tragedy, in January-February 1925.
— Alan Canon
12. October 13, 2010 10:39 pm
I feel like nobody else has mentioned Jessica McLure, who was stuck down a drainpipe, but was also riveting when I was a kid.
13. October 13, 2010 10:43 pm
Add me to the list of people who was spurred to recall this film in light of recent media events that, thank heavens, had a much happier ending! It was an excellent movie, and it’s so nice that Mr. Douglas is still alive nearly 60 years later to discuss it.
— Bettye Underwood
14. October 13, 2010 10:44 pm
First, I am happy every miner is safe. I too thought of Ace in the Hole as this disaster unfolded. It is interesting how the number of miners has increased already from 24 to 33 and how media-savvy they all appear to be (I heard they were fighting amongst themselves to be the last one out of the mine). In a few years, every man in Chile will claim to have been one of the Camp Esperanza miners. Perhaps there should be a reality show, “The Real Miners of Chile.”
— Lynn in DC
15. October 13, 2010 11:10 pm
I had just been boring my office colleagues in Australia about this very point and then I opened up the NY Times and there is a story. Made me realise I was far from the only one.
16. October 14, 2010 12:27 am
Billy Wilder and Douglas are over valued products in the same way that hundreds of movies “Grengas” with contents copied from stories from other places and countries that are not just USA, by Hollywood producers looking for fresh money only, I imagine Yankee film industry should be making up stories and distorted in this Chilean Odyssey is a true story that surpasses all fiction, the Americans know much about it, with September 11. Americans do not appreciate or value anything that is not within their borders. His arrogance, lack of respect for other cultures, and deformed excessive pride, makes the whole world hates their culture, beginning with those silly movies wilder.
— Antonio Alvarado
17. October 14, 2010 12:52 am
Thank God! This finally answers the question I’ve naturally been asking about the mine disaster n Chile — what does Kirk Douglas think?!
— greg depaul
18. October 14, 2010 7:38 am
After watching the 33 miners being rescued, this is one film I’ll have to dig up. One has to wonder if Chilean President Sebastien Pinera has seen this film.
— warrior ant press
19. October 14, 2010 11:20 am
Another good movie was ROPE OF SAND with Burt Lancaster and Raymond Novarro.
20. October 14, 2010 1:38 pm
I too immediately thought about this film when I first saw the early reports of the Chilean rescue operation on the BBC. However, it wasn’t the nature of the miner’s entrapment so much as the media circus that was developing, that made me think of the film.
— DESIGN PARTNER
21. October 14, 2010 3:50 pm
Really enjoyed hearing from Kirk . (they don’t make them like that anymore!0
Talking about the movie, “The Apartment’….rented it again recently….a big favorite of mine! Wonderful!!
— Cheryl Sullivan
22. October 14, 2010 7:14 pm
Nobody thought about Blind Shaft?
23. October 14, 2010 7:18 pm
Well, President Piñera did exactly the same thing that the reporter in the movie did: he transformed it into a circus. Now, Piñera wants them to play a soccer match with his ministers.
— Jorge González
24. October 14, 2010 9:37 pm
I do not condescend or patronize the many Chilean reconciliations and embraces that were the easy substance of the live video of all of yesterday’s, in a way, uncontrived, successes.
–a breath of fresh air, in the otherwise Fox-ridden effluvium of dismal spectacles, and encapsulations of jabber, that goes down on TeeVee.
Interesting, and scarey, times we live in.
Why watch the trivial?
. . . giving birth to re-birth to . . . why?? I ask you.
well, Fats’ loose-braking noose has caught another Plan B that werk’t!
– Billy Wilder’s movie, “Ace in the Hole”–
I’d forgot this “rendition” of
the ascension from the Cave, the late scene as the x-tian myth would have it, of His
horizons again, after three days . . .
. . . a \”coming outta the Hole\”, and whatever many, other, quick-grasp’t or -gasp’t imageries, and bone-mottos.
But for B&W, here it rises again,
like the Fenix, christen’d number [3 . . . n]? maybe.
Ah, that symbological old movie.
doomed to a Repeat, itself, ourselves . . . hmmm.
. . . [the neck'st day:]
Out here, there’s thirty-three incipient raconteurs, or storytellers out there, collectively just pop’t outta El horno, (\”the oven\”—at 69 days, not precocious toast, nor half-baked)
On yesterday’s ‘stream’ seeming a Latter Day epiphinanity,
i remark, sans genuflexion,
from an online edition, late last night, a NYTimes’ lapse—into the deep–it was fell secular reportage,
when The Desk could no longer sustain a High Church Posture, on
the moment’s Miracle, on Live.
And here i quote you:
—Esteban Rojas, 44, said he would give his wife of 25 years the church wedding she always deserved, while Yonny Barrios, 50, faced a slightly more complicated future. The woman he embraced upon exiting the rescue capsule turned out to be his mistress, not his wife.
“He has another companion,” Marta Salinas, his wife of 28 years, told reporters, adding that she might wait for him at home. “I’m happy for him, and if he remakes his life, good for him.” —
–re: the \”Treatment of Yonny Barrio\”
from the theme of the article, \”miners . . . tell . . . and plot new lives,\” we may anticipate serials to come, finding some of the ‘saved’ moved from “one tight situation to another.” Likely stories are already foretold.
I myself would be happy to join wholly as a ghost-writer, with that present trinity that is now electrician Yonni Barrios’ company.
(p.s., the secular footage is All there, The miracle
’s in the can, and i suppose it’s a public document)
–Google Earth has made the moonescape terrain quite cinematically seizable for me, that Dry Desert all ready, of cuprous ruddy worn hills and colour–like those moonrises that have the deep rouge, you know . . .
–just over the Horizon
. . .
WHAT? . . . me?
it’s now twilight; i’m at the drive-in,
& i cain’t wait. to see the movie, again. or make it.
meanwhile, there’s the old incarnation, of billy wilder’s: A.O.Scott reminds us of that “Ace in the Hole.”
El gran carnaval
29/08/2010 - Ramón Rozas
(“Las malas noticias se venden mejor. Una buena noticia no es noticia”. Kirk Douglas en ‘El gran carnaval’. Billy Wilder, 1951)
La condición humana, tan previsible como irracional. Noticias que surgen y descubren cómo esta sociedad reparte sus cartas. Naipes de fortuna, pero también naipes de desolación y desesperanza. Nuestras vidas se componen de buenos y malos momentos, de trincheras de dolor, pero también de esperanzas que muchas veces nos mantienen vivos. Todos ellos son retratados por los medios de comunicación, obligados altavoces de este entorno en el que nos movemos.
Chile asiste estos días, con el corazón en un puño, a la resolución del caso de treinta y tres mineros atrapados en la mina de San José, en la desértica región de Atacama, «el desierto más desierto del planeta», en palabras del último ganador del premio Alfaguara Hernán Rivera Letelier. Nunca nadie se había preocupado antes de ellos, de sus horas y horas en una de las minas más duras del mundo, jornadas de trabajo interminables en una tumba habitada por vivos, pero en la que sus dignos jefes pagaban el salario más alto de los alrededores. Estos días todo Chile respira junto a ellos, sus historias llenan las páginas de los periódicos y medios de todo el mundo mandan enviados especiales a ese remoto infierno para conocer las historias personales de cada uno de ellos. Conocemos al humorista, al ex futbolista, al periodista... sus conversaciones con las familias, sus sueños, sus aficiones, la desgracia les ha hecho famosos, rostros que nunca pasarían de formar parte de una mala novela ahora son las miradas de la esperanza.
A un lugar similar llevó el director de cine Billy Wilder a Kirk Douglas para encarnar a un reportero sin escrúpulos, Charles Tatum, en ‘El gran carnaval’, y desnudar tanto a periodistas como a aquellos seres que buscan en la desesperanza de los demás una forma de entretenimiento. En aquella mina fue un solo hombre el que quedó atrapado: «una sola persona es mejor que una multitud, la curiosidad humana presta más atención a la historia de una persona», dice el periodista frotándose las manos ante los beneficios que le puede reportar la condena de aquel desgraciado que él mismo se encargará de prolongar. Fuera, en el exterior, caravanas de curiosos, gentes intrascendentes que sólo buscan alimentarse del dolor, negocios surgidos al amparo de la masificación oportunista. Entre todos ellos bulos y rumores, dimes y diretes sobre su trabajo, sus relaciones, su familia... Billy Wilder supo radiografiar en esta película, como en tantas otras de su magistral filmografía, a esa parte de nuestra sociedad, una feroz crítica menos irónica que otras ocasiones y más descarnada, sabedor del daño que desde esas bocas y esas páginas sin moral se puede realizar.
En nuestra ciudad durante este seco agosto también tenemos nuestro propio desierto, la desaparición de Sonia Iglesias ha convertido la vida de su familia en una mina en la que ya se sienten sepultados. La maquinaria de la sociedad acostumbrada a asomarse a esas fétidas ventanas que la televisión cada día abre de par en par en los programas que diseccionan a los famosos también se ha puesto aquí en funcionamiento. Habladurías, hipótesis, conjeturas, personajes que se consideran periodistas o policías, puñaladas en el alma sangrante de una familia y de un niño al que nadie sabrá explicar lo inexplicable. El género humano y sus carnavales, en el cine y en la vida.