Men, this week I’m gonna be reviewing my second all-time favorite movie in the Crime film genre (the first being, of course, The Godfather): Scarface. No, not the 1983 Brian De Palma directed Al Pacino remake, but the original. Now, a person or two on this site was doubtful about my adding it to the list of Movies Men Must Watch, but I disagree, here’s why. Like anything else, it is good to have knowledge of the great man-movies of the past. In order to be an expert on man-movies, you have to be familiar with the older films, no matter how tame they seem by today’s standards. Now, onto the review:
Scarface is a 1932 Gangster film produced by the legendary Howard Hughes, directed by Howard Hawks, and written by Ben Hecht and adapted from the 1929 book Scarface by Armitage Trail
The movie stars Paul Muni as Anthony “Tony” Camonte, Osgood Perkins as John “Johnny” Lovo, Ann Dvorak as Francesca “Cesca” Camonte, George Raft as Guino Rinaldo, C. Henry Gordon as Inspector Ben Guarino, and Boris Karloff as Gaffney.
The real fascination, for me anyway, lays more in what was going on during the making of the movie. Obviously the film is based off of Al Capone, who really was nicknamed Scarface. In fact, its said that Capone actually owned a copy of the movie. According to Hecht, some of Capone’s guys stopped by to find out if it was based on Capone, he said no, it wasn’t, and they left. Another rumor goes that Capone’s men came to shut the movie down, but were talked into becoming advisers on the film.
There were two versions of the film made, the first version was finished in September of ‘31, but the censors didn’t release it until ‘32, basically because they felt it put the gangster lifestyle up on a pedestal to be admired and that it was also too violent. This caused several scenes to be edited and the movie subtitled “The Shame of the Nation”. An introduction pretty much speaking out against violence and gang wars was added, but, even then, some censors still didn’t give it a pass. Howard Hughes, pissed at what happened to his movie, disowned that version and released the second version in states with either much more relaxed, or no censors at all.
The storyline is simple: Camonte kills the Southside crime boss, Big Louis Castillo, on Lovo’s orders. Lovo takes control of the Southside with Camonte selling alcohol to speakeasies and offing off rivals. Remember this is during Prohibition, so alcohol was illegal and was a big profit for crime families. Well, Lovo tells Camonte not to mess with the Irish crime ring, which is headed by O’Hara, in the Northside. Camonte, of course, dismisses the warnings and begins to shoot up the Irish gangs, looking to take control of it himself. Gaffney retaliates and hits back. Lovo, who has pretty much lost control of his group to Camonte, sets him up for assassination. I refuse to go any further than that, you’ll have to watch to find out what happens, the DVD release of this film also includes an alternate ending.
Well, I’m ending this here. I hope I have given some of you men out there reading this some kind of interest in this classic man-movie and that you will seek it out. You can find it on Amazon.com, and I even saw it in Walmart the other day!
I’ll see you all back here next week when I review more Movies Men Must Watch.