4.5 4
Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Howard Hawks, Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley


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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 AlSee more details below


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.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
While not the first of the great gangster films, Scarface (1932) is unquestionably among the most powerful, owing to its uncompromising portrayal of Prohibition-era mob violence. Paul Muni stars as Tony Camonte, the Capone-inspired thug who goes from small-time hoodlum to underworld czar following a carefully orchestrated campaign of brazen double-crosses and bloody shootouts. George Raft, in the role that made him famous, plays Tony's tight-lipped, coin-flipping lieutenant, and patrician beauty Karen Morley sizzles as Scarface's thrill-seeking mistress. Director Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo), working from a no-holds-barred screenplay written largely by Ben Hecht, fought for months with Hollywood censors over the picture's content; in addition to the graphic violence, watchdogs objected to Hawks's none-too-subtle intimation of an incestuous relationship between Scarface and his young sister (vibrantly played by Ann Dvorak). Just as raw and gritty today as it was when first released nearly 70 years ago, Scarface belongs in every home library of classic movies.
All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Scarface is a potent, uncompromising portrait of the gangster life. While journalists often romanticized them, and many in the public made mobsters into folk heroes, director Howard Hawks' portrayal of the brutish and ambitious Capone-inspired titular character, played with terrific ferocity by Paul Muni (this movie made him a star, and it is easy to see why) is brutal and stark. The pre-noir gangster genre was in many ways defined by the innovative approaches taken by Hawks in Scarface. Tracking and dolly shots, relatively unknown at the time, contribute to the film's kinetic energy and excellent pacing. The expressionistic black-and-white cinematography by Lee Garmes is married to a screenplay (written by a team led by Ben Hecht) packed with symbolism as well as a rare combination of humor, sex, and violence. This extremely violent film (28 murders are recorded onscreen) also grafts a racy incest theme (Muni's character has Caligula-like feelings for his sister, played with remarkable sexual confidence by Ann Dvorak) onto the story line, resulting in considerable pressure from censors (the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America) coming to bear on the filmmakers (in this pre-Hays Production Code era). However, after considerable squabbling, producer Howard Hughes finally released Scarface in two formats: one with censor approval and one without, leading to confusion among Scarface audiences at the time. Ironically, though the movie indicts the violence of the mob figures it portrays, it became very popular largely because of this: in the end, the mobsters lead a very exciting lifestyle and seem to be having a lot of fun wreaking havoc on the world. And, of course, the movie is grand entertainment itself.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Exclusive introduction by Turner Classic Movies host and film historian Robert Osborne; Rare alternate ending

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Muni Tony Camonte
Ann Dvorak Cesca Camonte
Karen Morley Poppy
George Raft Guino Rinaldo
Boris Karloff Gaffney
C. Henry Gordon Guardino
Osgood Perkins Johnny Lovo
Purnell Pratt Publisher
Vince Barnett Angelo
Inez Palange Mrs. Camonte
Edwin Maxwell Chief Detective
Tully Marshall Managing Editor
Maurice Black Sullivan
Paul Fix Gaffney Hood
Howard Hawks Man in Hospital Bed
John Lee Mahin MacArthur of the Tribune
Hank Mann Worker
Dennis O'Keefe Dance Extra
Charles Sullivan Actor
Harry Tenbrook Bootlegger
Harry Vejar Big Louis Costillo
Henry Armetta Pietro
Bert Starkey Epstein

Technical Credits
Howard Hawks Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Gus Arnheim Score Composer
Ben Hecht Screenwriter
Douglas Biggs Editor
W.R. Burnett Screenwriter
Edward A. Curtiss Editor
Lee Garmes Cinematographer
Howard R. Hughes Producer
John Lee Mahin Screenwriter
Seton Miller Screenwriter
Lewis William O'Connell Cinematographer
Harry Oliver Production Designer
Fred Palsey Screenwriter
Adolph Tandler Score Composer

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