Filmsite Movie Review
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Early The Next Morning - Sunday at 5:45 am - Lorraine's Threat to Desert Her Husband:

At the cliff dwelling site, deep down in the recesses of the cave, Leo laid almost motionless, still hopelessly pinned under the rockslide, and almost forgotten. Staring upwards, he heard a noise and observed a long-tailed lizard scaling one of the walls nearby.

Back at the trading post, a few small tumbleweeds blew by as Lorraine Minosa - dressed for travel and carrying a suitcase - descended the outer flight of stairs from her second-story apartment above the trading post. Inside the shop, she heard Tatum banging away on his typewriter at the counter. Completely emotionless and unaffected by the pending crisis, she snidely asked: "The construction boss show up? Or the sheriff?...From the way you were talking, I thought you'd get the Governor down here. The Marines, too." He assured her that he had taken charge and was orchestrating the rescue scene - he had summoned a construction crew and machinery from Los Barrios, and the doctor and Sheriff were notified and would soon be "on the job." She sensed Tatum's duplicitous tone that it was all talk: "Yap, yap, yap." Tatum reassured her: "Look, madam, when I say I deliver, I deliver."

Tatum was perusing a thick Minosa family photo album on the table next to his typewriter. It had been shared with him by Mama Minosa who was away - attending early Sunday mass. Lorraine mentioned how he had been typing away all night and had kept her up:

Lorraine: What's that you been playing on your typewriter all night? From upstairs, it sounded like that Sabre Dance.
Tatum: With all this trouble, I didn't think you could sleep anyhow.
Lorraine: I've had enough sleep, five years of it. What else could you do in Escudero? Look at the family album?

She was thoroughly bored after living in the god-forsaken Escudera for five years - feeling trapped, and she seemed completely unaffected by the entrapment her husband was experiencing. She realized that Tatum was capitalizing on her husband's predicament:

"Yesterday, you never even heard of Leo. Today, you can't know enough about him. Aren't you sweet?"

She described how she had married war veteran Leo in Baltimore when she was a "skinny" redhead in 1945 just after the war, and had been diagnosed with a touch of TB. Tatum quipped about her healthy respiratory system: "You don't look like a chest case to me."

With plans to take the "early bus" out of town, she cleaned out the remaining cash from the register, and then described in the past how she had tried to desert her husband (but he had always corralled her back). Tatum agreed that it was an inopportune time for her to be leaving ("You picked a fine time!"):

Outta here fast. As far as 11 bucks'll take me. I'm blowin' this place.... I've left him before. Once, I got as far as Dodge City, Kansas, in a big, blue convertible that stopped by for gas. It must have cost $4,000, easy. But Leo caught up with me. I told him I was through. I told him it was no good any more. This isn't for me.

Before her marriage, in the year 1945, she had been working as a bar-maid in a "dime-a-dance joint...saloon" (or nightclub) in Baltimore. Leo had misleadingly promised her a better life and 'rescued' her from grimy city life. And now after five years, she was completely unfulfilled, bored, disillusioned, bitter and resentful in the drab and lifeless town out in the sticks. Her heartless, opportunistic intention was to run out on her good-hearted husband Leo, because now - he literally couldn't run after her. She also sensed Tatum's true motives - that he was a scheming, hypocritical hustler who was creating a "trapped man" story for his newspaper - to stir up excitement and readership and to jump-start his career:

Lorraine: He told me he had 160 acres in New Mexico and a big business. Look at us, we sell eight hamburgers a week and a case of soda pop, and once in a while, a Navajo rug maybe.
Tatum: He married ya, didn't he? Brought ya out here, fed ya, nursed ya.
Lorraine: And I thanked him plenty. I've been thankin' him for five years. That makes us even. So long, Jack. (She turned toward the front door with her suitcase)
Tatum: Nice kid. Got a little jump on him this time, huh? Can't run after ya, not lyin' there with those rocks on his legs.
Lorraine: Look who's talkin'. Much you care about Leo. I'm onto you. You're workin' for a newspaper. All you want is somethin' you can print. Honey, you like those rocks just as much as I do.

In front of the curio trading post, Lorraine strode over to the Trailways Bus Depot sign for pick-up - ready to desert her husband.

The Federber Family - Typical American Tourists:

An approaching sedan hauling a mobile camper with a canoe lashed onto their vehicle's roof, pulled up - it was carrying a vacationing tourist couple (the Federber nuclear family, Al (Frank Cady) and Nellie (Geraldine Hall)) and their two pre-teen sons (Walter and Willie) - on their way to a week-long fishing and boating trip. Al claimed they were "mixed up" and thought they were lost. They had been looking for the site of the cave holding a trapped man that they had read about in the early edition of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin: "Is that the mountain? Is he still in there?...Just stopping by to take a look....Just a half an hour."

By this time, Tatum had come outside, greeted the family, and asked them for a copy of the paper. His story was a major front-page headline, with a picture of Leo in the cave-in:

Treasure Seeker Trapped in Burial Vault
by Charles Tatum

Escudero, N.M. - June 27
Deep in the long-forbidden recesses of an Indian burial cavern is a brave... trapped to his waist...
At the entrance waits his grief-stricken, heart-broken wife, Mrs. Lorraine Minosa.
It was this reporter's privilege to spend brief moments with Leo Minosa at the scene of his misfortune...

The curious couple asked: "We thought there'd be a lot of digging going on. Where is everybody? Scared of those Indian spooks, huh? When are they gonna start doing something?" Tatum invited them to drive up closer to the mountain cliffside, and later return to the trading post for breakfast. Al eagerly urged his wife to alert their two children sleeping in the back seat to the morbid educational opportunity: "Wake up the kids, Nellie. They should see this. This is very instructive!" As they drove off to get a 'front-row' seat for the spectacle, Tatum now realized that they were only the beginning of a wave of curious and spendthrift onlookers of average middle-class Americans lustfully seeking amusement.

Lorraine's Opportunistic Decision to Remain as Tatum's Accomplice:

Tatum and Lorraine were left standing outside the trading post. As Lorraine removed her wedding ring, Tatum strongly suggested (and insisted) that Lorraine keep it on, and remain during her husband's crisis - as his piece in the paper had described. His only goal was to convince her to stay - by pointing out how she would benefit. He promised that there would be a financial windfall and monetary rewards for remaining and pretending to be a grieving and virtuous wife. As a peroxide blonde, she would be foolish to desert her husband:

Tatum: Hey, you look pretty good here. Wanna hear what I wrote about you? 'The grief-stricken wife with a tear-stained face trying to fight her way into the cave to be at her husband's side.'
Lorraine: Tough. You'll just have to rewrite me.
Tatum: In a pig's eye. This is the way it reads best, this is the way it's gonna be. In tomorrow's paper and the next day's. It's the way people like it. It's the way I'm gonna play it. (He roughly grabbed her arm) Get this. There's three of us buried here, Leo, me and you. We all wanna get out, and we're going to. Only I'm going back in style. You can, too, if you like. Not with any 11 stinkin' dollars. You saw those people. To you, they're a couple of squares, huh? To me, they're just the beginning. To me, they're Mr. and Mrs. America. I wasn't sure before, but now I know. They're going for it. They'll eat it up. The story and the hamburgers. You'll sell all your hamburgers, hot dogs, soda pop and all your Navajo rugs. There's gonna be real dough in that cash register by tonight. When they bleached your hair, they must've bleached your brains, too.

At that moment, a horn honked sounding the arrival of the Trailways bus. As it approached, she picked up her suitcase, and Tatum retreated back to the trading post behind them. The bus pulled into the camera shot and obscured Lorraine standing there with her suitcase in hand. For a moment, there was suspense as to whether she would decide to stay or leave. After the bus pulled away, Lorraine was still standing there. She walked back toward the trading post. She had been easily persuaded by the promise of revenue from gathering throngs to remain with her ailing husband. Tatum opened the trading post door for her.

Throngs of People at the Site - The Public's Morbid Curiosity:

In the next scene later in the day, now with bright sunlight, dozens of cars were parked at the trading post, and business was already booming. Herbie arrived back from Albuquerque, driving Tatum's top-down convertible (with a PRESS sign in the front window), and he spoke to Papa Minosa who was pumping gas out front. He was told that Tatum was checking up on Leo: "Mr. Tatum's down there now with the doctor."

At the entrance gate, sight-seers to the cliff dwelling site were being charged 25 cents per car (Admission was no longer free). When Herbie asked for an exemption: "It's the press...Newspaper. We never pay," the neighbor boy collecting the fee in a cigar box insisted that PRESS cars were not excluded: "Everybody pays. Mrs. Minosa says so. Two bits. Now keep moving!"

Throngs of cars, motorcyclists, and other tourists were already setting themselves up and establishing their spots near the cave dwellings. The Federber family was assembling an awning to provide shade next to their trailer, with a picnic table and lounge chairs. At the cave entrance, a supply truck from the Smollet Construction Company (from Los Barrios) was unloading equipment and supplies, including large bracing timber logs, as two firemen hauled and unwound a large oxygen hose from a reel to be used as a hand-air pump. Tatum and the local physician, Dr. Hilton (Harry Harvey), who emerged from the cave dwelling entrance were notified about rescue efforts: "We'll have that air going in about 20 minutes, Doctor." Hilton was periodically treating Minosa with pain-killing medications (Demerol) and anti-biotics (Aureomycin), plus a shot of tetanus-gas gangrene antitoxin. Tatum nervously asked if Minosa would last a week: ("He's a pretty rugged customer, isn't he?"), and to his relief was told: "They don't come any tougher. He walked around with a burst appendix for three days, because he promised his wife he'd take her to a square dance."

Herbie informed Tatum that the news outlets were eager for more news about the cave-in: "Boot flashed a couple hundred words over the wires, and they came back for more. They want all we've got...We wired all the art, too. What a break for me. If this keeps up, maybe Life will go for it, or Look, one of those four-page spreads." Tatum smiled at his young apprentice, now caught with the publicity bug himself and envisioning his own personal gain in the future with a major magazine. Tatum gloated: "Ya like it now, don't ya?"

[Note: Herbie might have forgotten that the published pictures of the victim had been taken by Tatum!]

Herbie realized he was slightly culpable for capitalizing on another's misfortune, and tried to clarify how he was innocent of any intentional wrong-doing: "Well, everybody likes a break. We didn't make it happen." (Herbie was directly quoting Tatum's words to him from earlier: "I'm not wishing for anything. I don't make things happen. All I do is write about them.")

Next, Tatum spoke to the concerned head of the Smollett Construction Company, Sam Smollett (Frank Jaquet) who feared: "Don't know yet. Lots of problems. We've been figuring on doing some bulkheading and cross-bracing. But those old walls, I don't know." This was good news for Tatum who wanted to stretch out the media circus (and monetary rewards) for as long as possible: "Well, it looks like we'll be here for a while."

Making a Deal With the Corrupt Sheriff:

The Deputy Sheriff summoned Tatum to speak to the Sheriff at the trading post. The uniformed Sheriff Gus Kretzer (Ray Teal) was introduced in the sequence through an association with a snake. The scene opened with a close-up of the Sheriff's pet baby rattlesnake in a open cardboard box, placed in the center of the table in a booth where he was seated alone - eating a hearty steak breakfast. The creature rattled at him when he tossed it his last piece of steak and it declined: "He won't eat any steak. Maybe he'd like a little raw hamburger or some milk maybe. After all, he's only a baby." Lorraine was "swamped" with customers lined up around her lunch counter, but overheard him and tossed him an alternative: "Try him with a lollipop, Sheriff." Tatum walked up and volunteered himself: "Or how about my right arm? He'd like that. You would, too, wouldn't ya?"

The Sheriff already knew of Tatum, who had phoned the previous evening with some "threatening" words. Tatum urged the Sheriff to play along with his orchestrated schemes and give him his blessing - in exchange for a glowing and favorable depiction in the paper that would promote his re-election:

You play along with me, and I'll have ya re-elected. You don't, and I'll crucify ya. That's all I said. Remember?

Tatum dubbed himself the Sheriff's 'campaign manager' who could help him get re-elected in the upcoming county election if he cooperated. [Note: A poster in the trading post advertised the re-election of the local corrupt Sheriff.] The sinister Tatum downplayed the amount of publicity that could be garnered by the county's rattlesnake hunt occurring simultaneously - and manipulatively urged the Sheriff to partner with his bigger story there in Escudero - he called it an "ace in the hole":

Tatum: Wasting your time on a rattlesnake hunt. This is where the votes are.
Sheriff: What do you know about votes? There's seven here in Escudero, 700 up there. We had a big barbecue, and I made a speech, a good one, too. Then we sat down to a little poker game, and you started bothering me, right in the middle of a hand.
Tatum: What'd you have, pair of deuces? This is better. Here we've got an ace in the hole. (To emphasize his point, and to visualize his low opinion of the corrupt officer of the law and public servant, Tatum dropped his cigarette in the Sheriff's drink glass)

Tatum described how he could exploit Leo's situation to provide the Sheriff with positive publicity as a concerned hero - to guarantee him political points that would guarantee his re-election. In exchange, the Sheriff had to agree to keep other reporters from encroaching on the story, so that Tatum could get an exclusive:

Tatum: By tomorrow, I'll have your name all over the paper. 'The man who rushed here at the first cry for help to direct the rescue operation.' By Tuesday, everyone in the state will know ya. 'Gus Kretzer, the tireless public servant who never spares himself.' I'll pile it on every day. Six days of this and I'll make ya a hero. The election's in the bag. In the bag. The guys running against you will vote for you.
Sheriff: Okay, I'm a hero. And what do I make you?
Tatum: Now here's the deal. The way things look, there's gonna be other newspapermen tryin' to horn in on this story. A lot of them. Maybe all the way from New York. This is my story. And I wanna keep it mine. You're gonna help me.

Another Deal with the Construction Engineer to Delay Rescue Efforts:

Sam Smollett joined their conversation at the booth in the trading post - with Lorraine momentarily eavesdropping as she brought coffee to the group and attended to other customers. Tatum urgently asked two times (and the Sheriff asked one time) about how long the rescue operation would take, while Smollett described all the issues and problems that they were confronting:

Smollett: There must be a pretty deep fault underneath there, or it wouldn't have caved in....Of course we haven't been able to get all the way back. There's a lot of shoring to do first. That means getting those bulkhead timbers placed right. Then there's all that cross-bracing...When we get that done, we ought to be able to start operating. Moving those heavy slabs and stones so the whole shebang doesn't come crashing in on us - and on him....Well, Gus, I can't tell you exactly. But I don't see how we can do it under 16 hours.
Tatum: (shaking his head negatively) Uh - uh.
Smollett: Well, maybe I can do it in 12 hours if I send for a second crew. Although some of the men don't want to work, on account of that jinx you wrote about.

According to Smollett, rescue efforts would take between 12 to 16 hours (by simply shoring up the mine and pulling Leo out). In Tatum's mind, however, that short time frame wouldn't be enough to reap the benefits of the media frenzy and the Sheriff's PR campaign, and he thought of another alternative to deliberately delay rescue efforts. He made the semi-convincing argument that the crew drill down from above through the thick rock surface (a 6 or 7-day job). A big phallic drill on the top of the mountain would have more flair and appeal, and would be much more dramatic to keep the crowds transfixed and rapacious - it would be out in the open, with sexual implications - an effect unattainable by an interior, regular rescue technique. However, he didn't count on the fact that drilling through the rock also represented a desecration of the holy mountain - that would bring its own curse:

Tatum: Look, Mr. Smollett, I'm no engineer, but the way you wanna do it, those crumbling walls and piles of stones, isn't that kind of dangerous for your men?
Smollett: Not after we get the walls braced.
Tatum: Suppose we set up a drill on top of the mountain and go straight down.
Smollett: Cut through all that rock? Do you know how long that would take?
Tatum: You tell me.
Smollett: Six, maybe seven days. It's a great big job.
Tatum: Have you got any drills like that?
Smollett: Yes, sir, but it's not necessary. Once we get that back part shored up, I think...

The Sheriff took Tatum's side and pressured Smollett to agree to Tatum's suggestion to extend the rescue time. With extortionist and blackmailing tactics, he emphasized how there would be consequences if Smollett didn't follow Tatum's advice. The Sheriff threatened Smollett's contracted employment with the county - to cause Smollett to fold and give in:

Sheriff: You're thinking too much. Let Mr. Tatum do the thinking.
Smollett: But he's all wrong. I think -
Sheriff: You're thinkin' again, Sam. A few years ago, you was a truck driver. Now that I'm Sheriff, you're a contractor. Do you want to be a truck driver again?
Smollett: All right, Gus, if that's the way you want it, I'll set the drill. But that fellow in there. Seven days.
Tatum: I know what's in your mind, Mr. Smollett, and it does you credit. Leo's a rugged boy. The doctor told me that himself. He'll get the best of care, so don't worry. (Tatum ended the conversation by sweetening Smollett's coffee, asking: "Sugar?")

At the lunch counter, Lorraine accepted the rare payment of a $50 dollar bill for orders totaling $1.20. The cash register was stuffed with bills. To cap the agreement between the trio in the booth, Herbie arrived to take pictures of both the Sheriff and Smollett (Tatum praised Smollett as "the man whose know-how is gonna save the life of Leo Minosa. You'll be the biggest contractor in the business, I'll betcha").

Tatum and Lorraine - A Pair of Accomplices:

Tatum entered the trading post's back bedroom that had been newly-assigned to him by the grateful Minosa couple. He tested out the bed and noticed that Herbie had already unpacked his belongings, placed his typewriter and materials on a table, and had prominently placed two tempting bottles of whiskey on top of the room's old-fashioned heater-stove. An admiring Lorraine, who had just watched and listened to his skillful maneuverings with the Sheriff and Smollett, followed after him into the room - and after a pause and his prompting by impatiently clicking his fingers ("Come on, come on, what is it?") - she gratefully admitted how thankful she was. She complimented him on his cold-hearted pecuniary greed that she was benefiting from:

Lorraine: I met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you, you're 20 minutes.
Tatum: Is that a boost or a knock? Because I haven't time to figure it out.
Lorraine: I've been doin' my own figurin'. Took in 70 bucks so far. By tonight, it oughta be $150. Seven times $150. That's over a grand. That's the first grand I ever had. Thanks. (She moved and snuggled closer) Thanks a lot.

He was forced to reprimand her for deviating from her feigned sorrow as the worried wife with an ever-widening smile - he slapped her to literally wipe away her pleased satisfaction, to cool her sexual desire for him, and to batter her into submission (just as Leo had unintentionally trapped her):

Tatum: (he slightly pushed her away with his finger) Look, Mrs. Minosa, your husband's stuck under a mountain. You're worried sick. That's the way the story goes. Now get the smile off your face.
Lorraine: It's been a nice day, Chuck. I feel like smiling.
Tatum: (sternly) You heard me. Get it off.
Lorraine: (provocatively and playfully as she moved closer again - still grinning and wishing for an embrace) Make me! (He brutally slapped her face twice - back and forth - she stepped back as tears formed)
Tatum: That's more like it. And don't wipe those tears. That's the way you're supposed to look. Put on your wedding ring. Go on back and peddle your hamburgers.

Live Radio Reports From the Rescue Site - Three Days Later:

On the ledge above the cliff dwelling, Smollett's crew of engineers was engaged in a rescue drilling operation with about thirty workers. Live "on-the-spot" radio reports were being broadcast from the site by KOAT from Albuquerque: "Since the operation began 3 days ago, the drill has cut its way 57 feet closer to Leo." According to the announcer Bob Bumpas (as Himself), Sheriff Kretzer, Smollett, and his "crew of volunteer rescue workers, is tirelessly fighting this battle against stubborn rock and fleeting time with a human life at stake. If anyone can lick this, this curse of the mountain of the seven vultures, they can."

The free-for-all media spectacle that Tatum was orchestrating had blossomed before everyone's eyes, and the trading post was besieged with visitors. There were hundreds of parked cars in neat rows, trucks, trailers, tents including one for the Press, gawking tourists, and multiple vendors (including balloon, hat and parasol sellers and food and trinket booths):

Ladies and gentlemen, something phenomenal is going on here, right in front of this 400-year-old cliff dwelling. A new community is springing up a veritable town of tents and trucks and trailers. Standing here, I can pick out license plates from California, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. And more cars pouring in all the time. And more volunteer workers from all over the state. Top-flight newspapermen from the biggest papers in the country are here. The most outstanding of these newspaper people is, of course, Chuck Tatum, the courageous reporter who first made contact with Leo last Saturday.

Pacific All Risk Insurance salesman Al Federber and his wife (from nearby Gallup, NM) stood with their two young sons closeby, wearing Indian headdresses and licking an ice cream cone - they became the subject of an on-the-spot interview. The couple vehemently staked their claim to fame - that they were indeed the first ones to arrive at the entombment site questing for amusement. Al became indignant when others claimed to be first:

I heard you talking to some other people on the radio last night. We were over there in our trailer having supper. And they said they were the first ones here. Oh, I hate to call anybody a liar, but that just plain isn't so. My wife will bear me out. Nellie, who were the first people here? Tell them. Why, we were. I wouldn't lie about a thing like that.

[Note: Actually, the Federbers were not the first bystanders. When Tatum arrived at the entrance to the cave-in site, a family was already standing there observing.]

When Federber began a deplorable sales-pitch about his "all-risk" insurance ("I'm in the insurance game myself" - a profession that capitalized on making money on other people's misfortunate accidents or emergencies), the interviewer cut him off.

Tatum's Conniving Orchestration of the Disaster - Sensationalizing and Monopolizing the News Coverage:

Down at the trading post that was crowded with visitors and vehicles, Lorraine had a wad of bills in her hand as she paid the driver of a gasoline delivery truck. Tatum encouraged her to continue her fake charade of grieving for her husband, and to be available for a photo-op of her grieving at the church:

Tatum: Look, Mrs. Minosa, they're having a rosary at that little church this evening. I want you to be there.
Lorraine: I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.
Tatum: You're makin' enough dough to buy yourself another pair. I want you to be there because I'm sending Herbie down to get a couple of shots, understand?

She agreed, however, mostly because she was pleased with the "pretty" coverage he had provided for her thus far: "You sure can make with the words. 'A figure of fair-haired loveliness in the lengthening shadow of the cursed mountain.' Beautiful..." However, he was well aware of how fast news could become stale. Tatum was already worrying that the media circus he was implementing would rapidly evaporate - along with the profits - and that he had to capitalize and feast on each day as much as possible:

Tomorrow, this'll be yesterday's paper, and they'll wrap a fish in it.

She cautioned him about ever physically striking her again: "And another thing, mister. Don't ever slap me again."

The price of gate admission and parking had now doubled and increased to 50 cents/car. Tatum was using apprentice/'fan'-boy Herbie to be his go-to assistant:

  • to purchase "real Havana cigars" in Albuquerque for Leo
  • to insure that Lorraine had a ride to the rosary church service, and to take "a picture of her with her beads"
  • to take a picture of a "medicine man...exorcising all the evil spirits"

Tatum informed Herbie that he had quit both of their jobs at the newspaper: "As of now, I'm not working with the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin. Neither are you. We quit." Herbie had become an extreme sycophant of Tatum's, but wanted an explanation for cutting their ties to the newspaper:

Herbie: There isn't anything you could do wrong as far as I'm concerned. But I don't get it. Quit in the middle of a story right when it's snowballing like this?
Tatum: That's exactly the time to do it, Herbie, boy. They've been lapping it up. Every word, every paper, from New York to Los Angeles. So now we turn off the spigot. Just like that. Watch them with their tongues out.

Inside the press tent, Sheriff Kretzer announced how Tatum had exclusive rights to the story and access to Leo. It would be "out of bounds" for any reporter (other than Tatum) to speak to Leo inside the cave - "It's dangerous down there. Because a wall could fall in on ya. Because I'm Sheriff and because I'm responsible for everybody's safety." If there was disagreement, the Sheriff threatened: "Be a shame to cut all these wires and kick you out." The out-of-town reporters kept spitefully asking: "How come it isn't out of bounds for Tatum?"

Tatum entered the tent to condescendingly greet the group of envious, rabid and disgruntled reporters (the vultures of the cliff dwelling!) he formerly competed with on the East Coast. They knew of his reputation as a "louse," and were grumbling about how they had been unfairly shut-out of a story:

Tatum: Howdy, fans. Why, it's like old home week. Glad to see you, Mac. Mr. McCardle (Lewis Martin), used to work together in New York. And if it isn't Jessop. Big-hearted Mickey Jessop (Ken Christy). Thanks for the 50 bucks you didn't send me. Guess he didn't get my wire. And what do you know? Josh Morgan (Bert Moorhouse). Where was it? Boston? Chicago? All I know is he's got a hernia.
Morgan: Sittin' pretty, aren't you, Chuck? Got everything sewed up - Leo, the sheriff. Try to talk to the father, the mother, the wife, and what do I get? 'See Tatum! See Tatum!'
Sheriff: He's a friend of the family.
Tatum: Now, what's your beef, fans? You're smart cookies, big-city newspapermen. There's a lot of good stories lying around here all yours. The weather, the crowds, the Indians. Inside stuff, how they weave a rug.
Jessop: Cut it out, Chuck. We're all buddies. We're all in the same boat.
Tatum: (contemptuously) I'm in the boat. You're in the water. Now let's see you swim, buddies!
Morgan: Tatum, I always knew you were a louse.

Tatum revealed under his jacket that he had a badge pinned to his shirt and was now "an officer of the law." He had been appointed Deputy Sheriff by Kretzer. Therefore, their protests and complaints to his newspaper publisher in Albuquerque would be ineffectual. He added that their protestations to the Governor and/or the Attorney General in New Mexico would also be time-consuming and worthless: "For all I know, they'll throw me out of here. Only by that time, buddies, Leo will be out, and the story is finished. Over, done!"

As he was leaving, Tatum turned back and dropped one final bit of self-aggrandizement - that he was auctioning himself (and the exclusive story) to the highest-bidding paper or editor:

Just so you don't think I'm a complete louse, I do have some news for you. Put it on a teletype. Tell your papers Chuck Tatum is available. Looks like there's gonna be three or four more days of hot copy. Exclusive. And Tatum is sitting on it. So let's hear their bids.

Even Tatum did a double-take when he looked up at a painted political ad: "RE-ELECT SHERIFF KRETZER" scrawled on the rock face of the cliff.

The Drilling Operation After Three Days:

During an on-site radio interview with KOAT, sweaty and dusty construction boss Smollett was describing the tough work of drilling through solid rock: "It's hard to say what we might run into. You hit rock and then those layers of shale. That's what we call a stratified formation." On his way to the site for his daily descent underground to speak to Leo, Tatum offered a few ironic (and hypocritical) words to the radio reporter:

"Well, we're making progress, good progress, but every second counts in this rescue operation."

He then hurried onward to the cave entrance, slightly delayed, when he overheard veteran silver miner Kusac (Ralph Moody) speaking out and challenging Smollett (and Tatum) about the foolhardy and unnecessarily prolonged strategy of their rescue effort. He contradicted the current procedure being performed, and referred to his own experience as a Virginia City miner during a similar rescue operation:

I don't know why they have to use a drill at all. They don't have to go from the top. There's a quicker way to get that man out of there...Well, we had cave-ins, quite a few of them. One that I know of was further in than yours....We didn't have no big drill. We didn't need it. We just hauled in the timber and shored up the walls all the way back. Now, if we did it that way in Virginia City, why can't we do it that way here?

Tatum defended how their situation was unique: "This is a cliff dwelling and not a silver mine." Kusac begged to differ: "Well, I think it's all the same. A man's underground and you got to get him out." When asked if their alternate strategy worked, Kusac confessed that they were too late in saving the trapped man - thereby letting Tatum off the hook and abruptly ending the conversation. A relieved Tatum asserted that they would continue drilling from the top: "Well, then, suppose we let Mr. Smollett do it his way, from the top."

The radio reporter embellished his commentary as Tatum waved to the gullible crowds when he entered into the dark cave:

Mr. Tatum is now approaching the entrance to the cliff dwelling to start another one of his perilous journeys into the underground mazes of this dread mountain. As he waves to the crowd, you can hear the tremendous cheer!

Tatum's Underground Visit With Leo - Wednesday:

Underground and still pinned under rock after 3-4 days, Leo was feeling the effects of dehydration and other medical issues, but mostly was psychologically haunted by the punishing, ever-present and maddening sounds of the pounding drill: "I can't stand it. It never stops. It's like somebody was driving crooked nails through my head. Listen to it! It's enough to wake up the dead, I tell you..." Tatum reassured him that the drill was getting closer, and then described how the crowd size was exponentially growing to 3,000 people outside the cave and that all of them were his "friends." Leo responded with continuing and steadfast trust in Tatum - not knowing that he could have been out of the cave by now if it weren't for Tatum purposely masterminding and choosing a prolonged rescue effort:

I guess everybody's got a lot of friends they don't even know about. Like those guys drillin' for me. Or like you, Chuck. I didn't even know you were alive this time last week, and now you're my friend. I guess you're my best friend.

The self-promoting Tatum was already making plans to move back to New York:

Leo, when we get you out of here, I'll be going to New York more than likely....I'll bring you out to visit me for a couple of weeks or as long as you want. Stay right with me. Hey, you ever been in New York?...We're really gonna have a great time. You'll see. We'll live it up a little.

Leo was thinking of his wife Lorraine - and inquired: "Does she talk about me? Is she upset?" He was hoping to be extricated by Friday, two days into the future, since it was a special day - his 5th wedding anniversary: "It's gonna be five years that Lorraine and I were married. You know, things haven't been so good between us. Maybe this'll make a difference. Maybe we can start all over again. Maybe I can take her along on that trip to New York. She's so pretty."

The Carnival Atmosphere:

A dissolve returned to the money-making atmosphere outside the cave in the bright sunshine, where the "pretty" Lorraine (with hands on her hips) supervised and counted the arrival of a number of delivery trucks from The Great S & M Amusement Corporation, hauling in equipment to set up a literal circus.

[Note: The name of the company S & M hinted at everyone's sadistic pleasure regarding Leo’s suffering.]

The rescue site was rapidly becoming a frenzied tourist attraction, with a Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, and other carnival rides. A huckster nearby called out: "Get yourself a red hot! A show-stopping monster for a dime!"

Lorraine's father-in-law issued a protest and complaint about the commercialization of the disaster site (with vendors selling balloons, ice cream, and hot dogs), but she wouldn't listen to his pleas:

Quiet, Papa. I told them it was all right....They're paying for it. Good money...Everybody's paying for it....they won't go home. They'll just park on the other side of the highway and eat someplace else. Why shouldn't we get something out of it?

She attempted to persuade him that the monetary benefits would help the entire Minosa family and Leo in particular: "Who do you think the money's for? It's for him when he gets out. He's always wanted to make some improvements around here, build some cabins for tourists, buy a new car, have a little money in the bank. It'll make things easier for him. Doesn't that make sense, Papa?"

With its siren blaring, Tatum drove up in the Deputy Sheriff's car with a glowing report on Leo's health - glossing over the real truth of Leo's deteriorating and dire condition: "Sure, he's fine. Well, you ought to see him smoking a cigar, reading the paper. He's making plans." With dollar signs in her eyes, Lorraine chimed in with fake concern: "Means he's gonna be fine. Means everything's gonna be fine, doesn't it, Mr. Tatum?" Tatum looked up at her with extreme disgust.

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