Brothers Monte and Ray leave Oxford to join the Royal Flying Corps. Ray loves Helen; Helen enjoys an affair with Monte; before they leave on their mission over Germany they find her in still another man's arms.
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
"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 »
Due to censorship requirements in several states, a second ending was shot after the film was finished, in which Camonte doesn't try an escape, but is sentenced to death and finally executed on the gallows. This alternate ending was shown only during the original 1932 theatrical run in certain states. All prints, home video, and television versions in current circulation use director Howard Hawks' ending, in which Camonte tries to escape and is shot down. The DVD includes the alternate ending as a bonus feature. See more »
"Do It First, Do It Yourself, And Keep On Doing It"
Unlike James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson in their career making roles as gangsters, Paul Muni after Scarface was able to avoid being typecast for his career. Only rarely did Muni return to a gangster part in his career.
It must not have been easy for him because Muni is absolutely mesmerizing as the totally amoral Tony Camonte. After Scarface was released Muni was inundated with offers to play gangsters which he rejected. Interesting because without knowing it another of the cast in Scarface, Boris Karloff, would be ultimately trapped in the horror film genre. Muni assuredly avoided Karloff's fate.
Another cast member, George Raft, got his big film break playing Muni's right hand man. For Raft this was art imitating life, these were the people who were his pallies in real life, there was never any acting involved. Raft never really had too many acclaimed performances away from the gangster/big city genre.
Camonte is the ultimate killing machine. He knows only one law the law of the jungle. He'll rise by any means possible, use anyone it takes, kill anyone who gets in his way. He has only two weaknesses, an obsession that borders on incestuous desires for his sister Ann Dvorak and a kind of affection for his factotum Vince Barnett. That's the kind of affection you have for a pet.
Barnett who usually played drunks and hangers-on got his career role out of Scarface. What comic relief there is in the film he provides. He's got some good moments as a 'secretary' trying to take a phone message with bullets flying all around him. Had he been not dispatched to take the message the machine gun bullets would have found their mark easily in the taller Muni.
Scarface is also art that imitates life. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the history of gangland war in the Chicago of the Twenties will recognize Muni as Capone, Boris Karloff as Bugs Moran, and Osgood Perkins as Johnny Torio. Capone could have sued, but right about then he was having much bigger problems with Internal Revenue.
We can't forget Karen Morley who played Poppy the girl who likes to go with a winner. She shifts from Perkins to Muni and away from Muni when it becomes necessary. In her own way, she's as amoral as Muni.
Scarface along with Public Enemy and Little Caesar set the standard for gangster films. The updated 1983 remake with Al Pacino in Muni's part is a good film itself and got a lot of its audience with some really gory scenes.
Muni did it with talent alone.
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