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Completed in mid-1930, Scarface, based on Armitage Trail's novel of the same name, might have been the first of the great talkie gangster flicks, but it was held up for release until after that honor was jointly usurped by Little Caesar and Public Enemy. Paul Muni stars as prohibition-era mobster Tony Camonte, a character obviously patterned on Al Capone (whose nickname was "Scarface"). The homicidal Camonte ruthlessly wrests control of the bootlegging racket from his boss, Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins), and claims Lovo's mistress, Poppy (Karen Morley), in the bargain. But while Poppy satisfies him sexually, Tony has a soft spot in his heart only for his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak). The film's finale is one of the longest and bloodiest of the 1930s, maintaining suspense and concern for the characters involved even though Muni has deliberately done nothing to make Tony likeable to audience. The grimness of Scarface is leavened by a few choice moments of black humor. Forced to leave a stage production of +Rain in order to commit a murder, Tony returns to his theater seat and anxiously asks his buddies how the play came out. Some of the film's funniest moments belong to Vince Barnett as the mentally deficient, illiterate gangster secretary, who at one juncture gets so mad at a caller on the phone that he shoots the receiver. Scarface features a famous "'X' Marks The Spot" logo, inspired by news photos of gangland murders: whenever a character is killed, the letter "X" appears on screen in one form or another. Example: When a rival gangster (played by Boris Karloff) is killed at a bowling alley, the camera cuts to his bowling ball knocking down all the pins -- a strike, denoted, of course, by an "X." Producer Howard R. Hughes couldn't release Scarface until he toned down some of the violence, reshot certain scenes to avoid libel suits, added the subtitle "The Shame of the Nation" to the opening credits, and shoehorned in new scenes showing upright Italian-Americans banding together to wipe out gangsterism. After its first run, Scarface was completely withdrawn from distribution on Hughes' orders; the film would not be seen again on a widespread basis until it was reissued by Universal in 1979, shorn of 8 of its original 99 minutes. … More
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as Tony Camonte
as Cesca Camonte
as Guino Rinaldo
as Johnny Lovo
as Insp. Guarino
as Tony's Mother
as Managing Editor
as Big Louis Costillo
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as Gaffney Hood
as Man in Hospital Bed,...
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Critic Reviews for Scarface
Scarface is one of best of the early gangster movies; its wit and building velocity speeds it past Little Caesar and keeps pace with Public Enemy.
By far the most visually inventive and tonally anarchic movie that Hawks made.
Howard Hawks's 1932 masterpiece is a dark, brutal, exhilaratingly violent film, blending comedy and horror in a manner that suggests Chico Marx let loose with a live machine gun.
Scarface contains more cruelty than any of its gangster picture predecessors, but there's a squarer for every killing. The blows are always softened by judicial preachments and sad endings for the sinners.
Audience Reviews for Scarface
One of the defining gangster films, this is a classic of the genre, one of the first films to really establish the gangster film and adding elements of visceral violence, which for its time was ahead of its time. Scarface is a phenomenal film, a film that is well acted, entertaining and well paced and manages to be a highly captivating film that is well worth your time if you enjoy the genre. The performances here are great and each actor brings something that elevates the film significantly. Plenty of gangster films have been released since then, but Scarface has a secured place as one of the finest examples of what a crime film should be. Simple, yet effective in its execution, this is a great film, a masterwork of cinema, one that showcases brilliant acting and storytelling that is never boring, and with that being said, it's quite impressive to see a film like this having been made during this period. The film is action packed with the right blend of drama and thrills to make it a worthwhile and memorable experience for viewers that enjoy a solidly paced gangster film. For its short run time, Scarface does a lot more than most genre films that are nearly three hours in length. This is filmmaking at its very best and it's a movie that is sure to appeal to any film buff that enjoys a well crafted picture. Scarface still holds quit well by today's standards, and it's one of the defining films that has helped shape the gangster genre.
This film remains a triumph for two solid reasons: it was speaking about the life of an American gangster while said gangster was still alive, and it overcame the debilitating reach of the censorship board in Prohibition era America. Made for the sole purpose of exploiting the fame of Al Capone during his years running Chicago, its reputation at the time was that of educational entertainment for people to see the death and destruction of the mobs. The very beginning of the film starts with a disclaimer urging the public to stand against the criminals and take action for themselves. Of course this ploy was only so the film itself could get into theaters, but it does add a bit of melancholy to the ending. Instead of showing these deviants, there is a romanticization of the lead character, Tony Camonte. Though this film's descendent, of the same name, did a better job of showing the glory and unjust winnings of the mob boss, this film did not disappoint in showing the flash and pomp of being the big shot. Besides the scenes of luxurious ballrooms and fine wine being poured, there's also a quality to Tony that makes him an underdog and somewhat of a hero throughout the film. It's obvious from the beginning that Tony has little brains for the operation, but plenty of ambition, and it's that dumb luck and lack of self-awareness that leads him to win out over his employer. His own ineptitude leads him to be portrayed as brave, when really it's a case of someone going too big too soon and losing it all. What also strikes you is how it's not educational in any sense of the word. There's a henchman who is hard of hearing who ends up being the comic relief, which is very much not showing mobsters in a bad light. Besides that there is also a character study between Tony and his sister, whose relationship is oftentimes abusive. There's a bit of melodrama when it comes to their relationship and the way he treats her, but it also lends to an entertaining watch. The two of the them make the movie go out in a blaze of glory at the end and lends, again, to melancholy. The story is certainly entertaining, but how it's framed and having that historical context really makes this a solid and enjoyable watch.
If you're planning on watching this film, I recommend viewing it well before even thinking of setting your eyes on the uncompromising and excessively brilliant Brian DePalma-helmed and Al Pacino-led 1983 version. Pacino's tour de force performance makes Paul Muni's campy efforts seem little more than negligible, and the film's relatively tame screenplay does little in way of shocking the viewer in the same ways that DePalma's gangster epic did scene after scene.
|Tony Camonte:||You know.. everytime I see you, you look better.|
|Tony Camonte:||[Holding a Tommy gun] There's only one thing that gets orders and gives orders and this is it. That's how I got the South Side for you and that's how I'm gonna get the North Side for you. Some little typewriter, huh? I'm gonna write my name all over this town with big letters!|
|Johnny Lovo:||Hey, stop him, somebody!|
|Tony Camonte:||Get out of my way Tony, I'm gonna spit! [fires Tommy gun]|
|Tony Camonte:||[holding up a tommy gun] Lookit, Johnny, you can carry it around like a baby!|
|Tony Camonte:||You see that? [A sign outside the window reads: THE WORLD IS YOURS. COOK TOURS] Someday I look at that sign and I say, 'okay, she's mine.'|
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