Scarface (1932) is the original gangster picture. Complete with old fashioned fedoras, striped suits, and Tommy guns. While not the very first, Scarface was influential in its own right. Of course I’ve already seen the 1983 remake, but I can still retroactively see the merit of the original. It similarly pushes the boundary on violence and the glamorization of crime. Produced by the Howard Hughes, Scarface faced lots of censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood. Until the movie became a scathing indictment of gangsters at the time. Specifically Al Capone who was currently in jail for tax evasion.
Scarface follows the Italian immigrant Tony Camonte as he rises in the ranks of the Chicago crime ring. He lives by the slogan “The World is Yours” and uses it to make reckless decisions. Having seen the remake, I was surprised with how much they were able to get away with in 1932. Shootings are at first veiled in shadow, but it all becomes clear when Tony gleefully fires on rival gangs with a newly acquired Thompson submachine gun.
Tony earns the ire of his boss Johnny Lovo when he starts messing with his blonde socialite girlfriend Poppy. The world is officially his when he bumps off Johnny for the top seat. Also intact is the uncomfortable relationship Tony has with his sister Cesca. His jealousy is made clear when he takes out his loyal coin flipping partner Guino Rinaldo. The climax isn’t coke fueled, but it is just as explosive when the police hold off a deranged Tony in his apartment. Scarface is a classic that made gangster flicks what they are today.