Scarface (1932 film)
Scarface (also known as Scarface: The Shame of the Nation and The Shame of a Nation) is a 1932 American pre-Code gangster film directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Hawks and Howard Hughes. The screenplay, by Ben Hecht, is based loosely on the 1929 novel by Armitage Trail which was inspired by Al Capone. The film stars Paul Muni as Italian immigrant gangster Antonio "Tony" Camonte, a gangster who violently rises through the Chicago gangland, with a supporting cast that includes George Raft and Boris Karloff. Camonte's rise to power dovetails with his relentless pursuit of his boss's mistress while his own sister pursues his best hitman. In an overt tie to the life of Capone, one scene depicts a version of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.
by Armitage Trail
|Edited by||Edward Curtiss|
The Caddo Company
|Distributed by||United Artists|
95 min (alt.)
After Hughes purchased the rights to Trail's novel, Hughes quickly selected Hawks to direct and Hecht to write the film's screenplay. Beginning in January 1931, Hecht wrote the script over an eleven-day period. Scarface was produced before the introduction of the Production Code in 1934, which enforced regulations on film content. However, the Hays Code, a more lenient precursor, called for major alterations, including a prologue condemning gangsters, an alternate ending to more clearly reprehend Camonte, and the alternative title The Shame of a Nation. The censors believed the film glorified violence and crime. These changes delayed the film by a year, though some showings retained the original ending. Modern showings of the film have the original ending, though some DVD releases also include the alternate ending as a feature; these versions maintain the changes Hughes and Hawks were required to make for approval by the Hays Office. No completely unaltered version is known to exist.
Audience reception was positive, but censors banned the film in several cities and states, forcing Hughes to remove it from circulation and store it in his vault. The rights to the film were recovered after Hughes's death in the 1970s. Alongside Little Caesar and The Public Enemy (both 1931), Scarface is regarded as among the most significant gangster films, and greatly influenced the genre.
Scarface was added to the National Film Registry in 1994 by the Library of Congress. In 2008, the American Film Institute listed Scarface as the sixth-best gangster film. It was remade as the 1983 film of the same title starring Al Pacino.