Scarface (1932 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Howard Hawks
|Produced by||Howard Hughes|
|Screenplay by||Ben Hecht|
by Armitage Trail
|Music by||Shelton Brooks|
|Editing by||Edward Curtiss|
|Studio||The Caddo Company|
|Distributed by||United Artists
Universal Studios Home Entertainment (home video)
|Running time||93 minutes|
Scarface (also known as Scarface: The Shame of the Nation and The Shame of a Nation) is a 1932 American gangster film starring Paul Muni and George Raft, produced by Howard Hughes, directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, and written by Ben Hecht based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Armitage Trail. The film also features Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, C. Henry Gordon, Vince Barnett, Edwin Maxwell, and Boris Karloff. One of a number of pre-Code crime films, the film centers on gang warfare and police intervention when rival gangs fight over control of a city.
Big Louis Costillo (Harry J. Vejar), the leading crime boss of the South Side of Chicago, is killed, apparently by Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) acting on the orders of Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins). Lovo then takes control of the South Side with Tony as his key lieutenant, selling large amounts of illegal beer to speakeasies and muscling in on bars run by rival outfits. However, Lovo repeatedly warns Tony not to mess with the Irish gangs led by O'Hara who run the North Side. Tony soon begins to ignore these orders, shooting up bars belonging to O'Hara, and attracting the attention of the police and rival gangsters. Lovo begins to realize that Tony is out of control and has ambitions to take his position. Meanwhile, Tony pursues Lovo's girlfriend Poppy (Karen Morley) with increasing confidence. At first, she is dismissive of him, but pays him more attention as his reputation rises.
Tony eventually decides to declare war and take over the North Side, and sends one of his best men and close friend, the coin flipping Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) to kill O'Hara in a florist's shop that he uses as his base. This brings heavy retaliation from the North Side gangs now led by Gaffney (Boris Karloff) and armed with Tommy guns, a weapon that instantly captures Tony's dark imagination. Tony leads his own forces to virtually destroy the North Side gangs and take over their market, using tactics such as those used on the Valentines Day Massacre. This proves too much for Lovo, whose organization has been effectively hijacked by his ambitious deputy, and he arranges for Tony to be assassinated while driving in his car. Tony manages to escape this attack, and he and Rinaldo kill Lovo in revenge, leaving Tony as the undisputed boss of the city.
Tony's actions have provoked a public outcry and the forces of the law are slowly closing in. Tony's problems increase when his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak), whom he is overprotective of, secretly marries his friend Guino. After discovering the two of them together, Tony kills Guino before either he or Cesca can inform him of their secret marriage. His sister runs out distraught and informs the police of Tony's killing. This provides the police the opportunity they'd been waiting for and they move to arrest Tony for Guino's murder. Tony holes up in his house and prepares to shoot it out. His sister comes, planning to kill him, but ends up helping him to fight the police. When she is killed by a stray bullet, Tony's confidence collapses. As the apartment fills with tear gas, he leaves down the stairs and is confronted by the police. Tony pleads in cowardly fashion for his life then seems to make a break for it, but is mowed down by police fire - apparently suicide by cop.
Alternate ending 
With the disapproval of several censors regarding the film, producer Howard Hughes, being wealthy enough to spend as much money as needed on the picture, willingly brought the film back to production by re-shooting an alternate ending.
The alternate ending differs from the original ending (version A), in the manner that Tony is caught and in which he dies. Unlike the original ending in which Tony Camonte escapes the police and dies getting shot several times, the alternate ending begins with Tony reluctantly handing himself over to the police. After the encounter, there is a scene in which a judge is addressing Tony (who is offscreen, probably because Paul Muni was not involved in production anymore) during sentencing. The next scene is the finale, in which Tony (seen from a bird's eye view, probably played by a stand-in) is brought to the gallows, where he is finally put to an end by being hanged as soon as the policemen cut the ropes.
After such effort, the censors still rejected this version. Afterwards, Hughes discarded version B, restored the film to its original ending and screened the film in states where there was little censorship of films, thus leading to bona-fide box office status and positive critical reviews.
- Paul Muni as Antonio 'Tony' Camonte
- Ann Dvorak as Francesca 'Cesca' Camonte
- Karen Morley as Poppy
- Osgood Perkins as John 'Johnny' Lovo
- C. Henry Gordon as Inspector Ben Guarino
- George Raft as Guino Rinaldo
- Vince Barnett as Angelo
- Boris Karloff as Gaffney
- Purnell Pratt as Mr. Garston, Publisher
- Tully Marshall as Managing Editor
- Inez Palange as Mrs. Camonte
- Edwin Maxwell as Chief of Detectives
- Harry J. Vejar as Big Louis Costillo
- Douglas Walton as Cesca's Boyfriend
The film was adapted by Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller, John Lee Mahin, and W. R. Burnett from Armitage Trail's 1929 novel Scarface. Trail, whose real name was Maurice Coons, wrote for a number of detective-story magazines during the early 20s. At the age of 28, however, Trail, who struggled with morbid obesity throughout his life, died of a heart attack shortly before the release of the 1932 film.
The film is loosely based upon the life of Al Capone (whose nickname was "Scarface"). Capone was rumored to have liked the film so much that he owned a print of it. Ben Hecht also said that Capone's men came to visit him to make sure that the film was not based on Capone's life. When he said the film was fictitious, the two men working for Capone left Hecht alone. The introduction for the film's screening on Turner Classic Movies even stated that Hecht convinced the men to work as consultants for him.
The original script had Tony's mother loving her son unconditionally, accepts his lifestyle, and even accepts money and gifts from him. In addition, there was a politician who despite campaigning against gangsters on the podium, is shown partying with them after hours. The script ending had Tony staying in the building, unaffected by tear gas and a multitude of bullets fired at him. It is not until the building is on fire that Tony is forced to exit the building, guns blazing. He is sprayed with police gun fire but appears unfazed. Upon noticing the police officer who's been arresting him throughout the film, he fires at him, only to hear a single "click" noise implying that his gun is empty. He is then killed after being shot several times by said police officer. A repeated clicking noise is heard on the soundtrack implying that he was still attempting to fire while he was dying.
After repeated demands for a script rewrite from the Hays Office, Howard Hughes ordered Hawks to shoot the film, "Screw the Hays Office, make it as realistic, and grisly as possible." Hawks shot the film at three different locations: Metropolitan Studios, Harold Lloyd Studios and the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles. Shooting took three months with the cast and crew working seven days a week. Hawks decided to include an X symbol above each of Camonte's victims and offered each crew member a hundred dollars to think of a different way to depict the X for every murder.
Several accidents happened on the set. Comedian Harold Lloyd's brother Gaylord Lloyd lost an eye when he visited the set and was accidentally shot with live ammunition. George Raft also received a head injury during the death scene of his character when he accidentally hit the door frame while he was slumping to the floor.
The first version of the film (Version A) was completed on September 8, 1931, but censors would not allow its release until 1932, because of concerns that it glorified the gangster lifestyle and showed too much violence. Several scenes had to be edited, the subtitle "The Shame of the Nation" as well as a text introduction had to be added, and the ending had to be modified. However, this version still did not pass the New York censors, so Howard Hughes disowned this version and released a version as close as possible to the original version in the states that lacked strict censors and attempted to take the New York censors to court. Hughes also made an attempt to release the film under the title "The Scar" when the original title was disallowed by the Hays office.
In 1994, Scarface was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The character of Tony Camonte ranked at number 47 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list.
The movie launched George Raft's lengthy career as a leading man. Raft, in the film's second lead, had learned to flip a nickel without looking at it, a trait of his character, and he made a strong impression in the comparatively sympathetic but colorful role. A reference is made in Raft's later role as gangster Spats Columbo in Some Like it Hot, wherein he asks a fellow gangster (who is flipping a nickel) "Where did you pick up THAT cheap trick?"
Brian De Palma directed a 1983 remake starring Al Pacino which has become a cult favorite in its own right. The 2003 DVD "Anniversary Edition" limited edition box set of the 1983 film included a copy of its 1932 counterpart. At the end of the 1983 film, a title reading "This film is dedicated to Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks" appears over the final shot.
In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Scarface was acknowledged as the sixth best in the gangster film genre.
Universal announced in 2011 that the studio is developing a new version of Scarface. The studio claims that the new film is neither a sequel nor a remake, but will take elements from both this and the 1983 version, including the basic premise of a man who becomes a kingpin in his quest for the American Dream. Martin Bregman, who produced the remake, will produce this version, and David Ayer will pen the screenplay.
- Trail, Armitage. "Scarface". Dell. (1959). foreword
- Mcadams, William. Ben Hecht: The man behind the legend. Scribner. (1990). p. 128. ISBN 0-684-18980-1.
- Hecht, Ben. A Child of the Century. Simon and Schuster. (1954). p. 487.
- Hollywood Censored by Gregory Black, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
- McCarthy, Todd. Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood. Grove Press. (2000). pp 122-56. ISBN 0-8021-3740-7.
- "Cinema: The New Pictures: Apr. 18, 1932", TIME
- "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "Scarface (1932)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
- Fleming, M. "Universal Preps New ‘Scarface’ Movie." Deadline.com (September 21, 2011)
- Fleming, M. "David Ayer To Script Updated ‘Scarface’." Deadline.com (November 29, 2011)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Scarface (1932 film)|
- Scarface at the Internet Movie Database
- Scarface at the TCM Movie Database
- Scarface at Rotten Tomatoes
- The World is Yours: The Writing of the Original Scarface by Stephen Jacobs at Creativescreenwriting.com