Johnny Lovo rises to the head of the bootlegging crime syndicate on the south side of Chicago following the murder of former head, Big Louis Costillo. Johnny contracted Big Louis' bodyguard, Tony Camonte, to make the hit on his boss. Tony becomes Johnny's second in command, and is not averse to killing anyone who gets in his and Johnny's way. As Tony is thinking bigger than Johnny and is not afraid of anyone or anything, Tony increasingly makes decisions on his own instead of following Johnny's orders, especially in not treading on the north side run by an Irish gang led by a man named O'Hara, of whom Johnny is afraid. Tony's murder spree increases, he taking out anyone who stands in his and Johnny's way of absolute control on the south side, and in Tony's view absolute control of the entire city. Tony's actions place an unspoken strain between Tony and Johnny to the point of the two knowing that they can't exist in their idealized world with the other. Tony's ultimate downfall may be... Written by
About one hour into the film, upon entering the Paradise Club, Tony, i.e. Paul Muni is greeted by a blonde who looks suspiciously like Jean Harlow. Harlow biographer David Stenn claims that this is indeed Jean Harlow herself, in an uncredited cameo appearance, but Harlow biographer Mark Vieira authoritatively states that it cannot be Harlow, because she was away from Hollywood at the time the scene was filmed, and so the actress in question must be a Harlow lookalike, deliberately positioned to look like her. See more »
Closeup of score sheet in bowling alley scene defies all rules of traditional scoring. See more »
"This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: "What are you going to do about it?". The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it? See more »
One of the best directors ever makes one of the best films ever: Howard Hawks makes "Scarface". Everything is outstanding in this masterpiece of cinema, the exciting, neatly told story of the raise and fall of Tony Camonte (Al Capone's alter-ego). Powerful script, magnificent black and white photography, excellent camera-work, an important and courageous social message, just four years after the St. Valentine's massacre.
Great action and great psychological design of the characters are perfectly woven into the story. One brilliant, innovative idea follows another. An example is the not-shown-scene of the St. Valentine's massacre. Another beautiful intuition: a key-point of the story is the arrival on the scene of the machine guns, destined to bring the gang-wars to an unheard-of level of violence. Look at Tony's scaring bliss when he handles the terrible weapon for the first time... The montage is extraordinary. Take the celebrated bowling-hall scene: we have a dozen of distinct, splendid shots, perfectly tied together. "Scarface" has a pace impressive for intensity. Not a single second is wasted in its narration.
The cinematic language attains its highest level. Look how Guino Rinaldo (the great George Raft) is introduced. A man is reading a newspaper in a barber shop. The approaching siren of a police-car is heard. Without even leaving his chair, the man throws his gun in the basket of towels, and, impassive, he restarts to read. In few seconds we have got a precise hint of the personality of Guino: smart, cool-headed, laconic, professional. Soon we will see that in fact he is the cornerstone of Tony's power and success in crime.
Another gem of cinematic language. Tony and his boss Lovo in the chamber of Poppy, Lovo's girl-friend. Poppy is doing her make-up. Tony tries to chat with her. Poppy doesn't pay attention. She is even rude with him. Her dressing-gown has slipped, showing Poppy's legs. Tony peeps at them. Poppy clearly notes it and she DOES NOT fix the dressing-gown...
George Raft, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley (Poppy), Osgood Perkins (the spine-less boss Lovo) make a fantastic job. And then there is Paul Muni as Tony Camonte... how good an actor he is could only be eye-witnessed, words can't describe the power of his performance. Tony is cruel, loathsome, brutal, hideous: we all hate him. Tony's clash with Lovo, with the sadistic suspense he deliberately creates, is a really ghastly scene. Nonetheless, Muni succeeds to be even touching, when Tony shows his childish enthusiasm for bad-taste "expensive" stuff, ties, silk shirts, luxury restaurants etc. Tony's final nervous breakdown is essential for the moral message of "Scarface", but it could have been a weakness of the film. Yet Muni is so great, so intense, that he can render Tony's disgusting sudden cowardice in a smooth, realistic way, and without provoking in the audience any sympathy for the gangster (an important aim for the film-makers).
A crucial theme of the movie is Tony's morbid affection (to say the least) toward his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak). Well... "Scarface" would deserve a book, not just a comment. Let me skip this important motive of "brotherly love", which is extremely difficult to judge correctly, in my opinion.
How can a comic character like the illiterate "gangster-secretary", who never gets the name at the telephone, fit so well in the tragic, action-packed story of "Scarface"? The answer is: Hawks' artistic genius.
"Scarface", Muni, Hawks... That is great Art of Cinema.
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