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Ace In the Hole (The Big Carnival) (1951)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This is a classic film-noir directed by the great Billy Wilder. It's one of the rare noirs that takes place in daylight.

Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a hard-boiled New York City newspaperman who was fired and reduced to working at a little newspaper in Albuquerque New Mexico. After a year at the paper, he's bored and restless to find the big story that will help him return to working at a big city newspeaper. His publisher sends him out of town to cover a rattlesnake hunt, but on the way at a stop for gas, he and his photographer get sidetracked when they learn that a man is trapped under a rock in a cave at an ancient Indian cliff dwelling. Tatum smells a big story and spins it into a fantastic tale about an Indian curse, keeping the man from being rescued long enough that he can profit from turning the accident into an enormous media event and a carnival with thousands of visitors and a ferris wheel.

Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole

After the County Sheriff leaves the rattlesnake hunt to visit the scene of the accident, we see him at a diner sitting at a table with a pastry box next to him that has air holes poked in the top and a small rattlesnake inside. He tries to feed the snake some steak with a fork, but the snake won't eat it. He wonders if the snake would like some hamburger or milk, because it's only a baby. The hard-boiled bleached-blonde working behind the counter tells him to try a lollipop and throws one into the snake's box. Tatum enters and offers the snake his right arm to bite, adding that the sheriff might also want to bite him. He knows the sheriff is upset about having to leave the rattlesnake hunt where he was campaigning, but Tatum eventually convinces him that if he lets him have an exclusive story about the cave in, he will help the sheriff's election campaign by making him famous.

A few days later we see the sheriff in Tatum's room with his rattlesnake in its box on the bed. He tells Tatum that it won't eat meat or cheese or bugs. The only thing he can get the snake to eat is chewing gum with the foil wrapper left on it.

The snake we see coiled in the box is a dead juvenile rattlesnake. The snake's rattle is pulled up and shaken by a thread or something similar to accompany the rattle sounds we hear. We don't see the snake move, only the rattle. The loosely-closed thin cardboard box is probably the worst container for a snake imaginable. Any snake would escape from it before you knew it was even trying to get out. And just for the record, a rattlesnake won't eat gum or anything except a live animal or one that died recently.

Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole Ace in the Hole

There's also a good scene in a car when Tatum and his photographer, who he calls "fan" are driving from Albuquerque to the rattlesnake hunt. They are talking about the hunt, with fan telling him it's quite a sight to see. Tatum says he'd rather see 50 rattlesnakes loose in Albuquerque, then makes up a fake news story about them that is better than the plots of a lot of snake movies I've seen. The rattlesnakes gone amok story foreshadows the upcoming disaster event fake news story that Tatum will cook up soon.

Herbie Cook:

"You Know, this could be a pretty good story, Chuck. Don't sell it short.
It's quite a site, 1,000 rattlers in the underbrush and a lot of men smoking them out, bashing in their heads."

Chuck Tatum:

"Big deal, a thousand rattlers in the underbrush. Give me just 50 of them loose in Albuquerque. Like that leopard in Oklahoma City.
The whole town in panic. Deserted streets. Barricaded houses. They're evacuating the children. Every man is armed.
50 killers on the prowl. 50. One by one, they start hunting them down. They get 10, 20. It's building. They get 40, 45. They get 49.
Where's the last rattler? In a kindergarten? In a church? In a crowded elevator? Where?"

Herbie Cook:

"I give up. Where?"

Chuck Tatum:

"In my desk drawer, fan. Stashed away, only nobody knows it, see? The story's good for another three days.
Then when I'm good and ready, we come out with a big extra. 'Sun-Bulletin snags number 50.' "