Behind the Scenes: Scarface (1932)

Behind the Scenes: Scarface (1932)


With “Little Caesar” and “The Public Enemy” proving hits, plenty of imitators lined up and one of the first, and best, came from producer Howard Hughes, who lined up an impressive roster of talent for his cautionary crime tale “Scarface” (sometimes subtitled “The Shame Of A Nation”). Writer Ben Hecht was underway on the script when he received a visit from a couple of Al Capone’s men, who were ‘checking’ that he wasn’t basing his script on Capone — he was, but managed to convince the hoodlums otherwise, and even got them to consult on the film. And Howard Hawks ended helming this tale of the rise — and inevitable fall — of Italian immigrant Tony Camonte (Paul Muni), who goes from low-level enforcer to running Chicago, only to fall foul of the law. Muni makes a charismatic lead figure — even if he’s given the sexual dysfunction common to most of the protagonists of this era, in this case a faintly incestuous relationship with his sister — and while it’s a familiar story now, the rags-to-riches crime story was pretty much a new invention (it mirrors “Little Caesar,” certainly, but the source novel, by Armitage Trail, was published in the same year as the book on which the earlier film was based), and there’s still a lot of appeal to it, especially given the care and character with which Hawks directs. Brian De Palma’s 1980s remake is the better known version these days, but we’d certainly take the original over the bloated Miami-set re-do.

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)

Scarface (1932)

Scarface (1932)

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Scarface (1932)


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