Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scarface 1932: A Photo Review

The original Scarface which was produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Howard Hawks is loosely based on the life of Al Capone.  Admittedly this is a difficult film to do a funny pictorial review on since it was lacking in both content and the good scenes were omitted once Will Hays and the moral police got wind of it.  As far as early gangster films go its not bad plus we get our first glimpse of the dapper George Raft and the film that would propel him to fame in so many 'gangster' films that came after it.

With it being Jean Harlow's birthday week I wanted to also point out that she has a very small cameo in the film.  You can read my write up on Jean HERE and my post on George Raft HERE.

Paul Muni as Antonio 'Tony' Camonte (Scarface)
Ann Dvorak as Francesca 'Cesca' Camonte
Karen Morley as Poppy
Osgood Perkins as John 'Johnny' Lovo
C. Henry Gordon as Inspector Ben Guarino
George Raft as Guino Renaldo
Boris Karloff as Gaffney

Before we begin please note that this review contains spoilers

We haven't even gotten started and they are already getting pushy and confrontational.

We open to a janitor cleaning up a nightclub after a wild party. (Obviously they have no regard for the price of crepe paper)

We aren't even a minute in and something sinister and most likely murderous is about to go down.

Crime boss Tony Costillo just had his last party

Something tells me we are going to get some action! It's a prohibition era and the boozers are going to need a new supplier

Helllooo handsome.  Raft doesn't say much, looks good and keeps flipping a coin while hanging out at the local barber shop. I'm just going to call him Coin Toss for now because I can.

The coppers show up to shake down the usual suspects and some clown hiding under towels.

OOHHH!  It's Alfalfa's father, Scarfalfa.  He's not real bright so I can see how he thought he could hide under towels in plain site.  (He wasn't actually hiding but getting a massage...which sounds even crazier).

He just stands there with his guard down and allows the copper to knock him down.  (I told you he wasn't real bright and now it's obvious how he got so scarred up).

After Lite Bright gets interrogated downtown he heads over to his boss, John Lovo's place which leads to this scene.  Nothing to see here but two tough gangsters admiring one another's outfits

We get our first glimpse of the bosses dame, Poppy.  She's not shy or amused by this dote who flirts with her right in front of her man.  (This should turn out well).

This is Scarfalfa putting on his charm face.  He doesn't look half bad in this lighting but there are more important things to discuss like the fact that he offed Costillo and theres going to be trouble

The dame bends over to show her boredom which most likely caused Will Hays an aneurysm since he failed to get this scene deleted.

Even Lite Bright knows when he's being teased which gets him shown the door.  He has bars and lowlifes to strong arm so he needs to stop screwing around.  (Perhaps it's me but I think they intentionally gave him a tiny  circus tie and bad hair to make him even more unlikeable).

Lite Bright and Coin Toss meet up to count their cash and plan their next move.  Heres hoping it includes a stop at a stylist and speech therapist since LB sounds like Quasimodo

Lite Bright still lives at home with momma! (I know, what a shocker)  He wants to know where little sister Cesca is and why she's not home. (She's just 17)

Cesca gets caught out in the hall romancing which sets LB off! (I'm going to call her Olive Oil so just trust me on this)

She gets pushed around by brother but she's a little firecracker and pushes right back  (I love Ann Dvorak)

She gets caught by momma accepting dirty cash from LB which gets her pushed around a little more.  Poor kid! Go buy yourself a sandwich and a new dress.

Coin Toss finds himself outside of Olive Oil's room where she catches him hanging out with a kid, an organ grinder and a talented monkey! (All things that say 'tough gangster' plus he looks 7 months pregnant so I guess the stylist wasn't an option).

Oh dear! She's actually smitten but since she's a kid and was recently man handled twice I'll give her a break

Lite Bright and his gang head over to Costillo's club to put the fear into them by throwing a vase through the window.  Wait until they see their high waisted pants and pinky rings, they'll wet themselves.

Yep! They look pretty scared

We get a few fun scenes like this where Scarface and his gang go around putting the fear of God into all of the bar owners and shooting up the places of those who won't cooperate (Bullies with high pants).

An unfortunate Joe gets his place blown to smitherines by a Molotov cocktail

Oops someone survives a hit so boss Lovo sends the boys to finish the job

Lite Bright and Coin Toss head over to the hospital with ginormous flower bouquets which shouldn't draw attention at all.  

The poor guy gets whacked in his hospital bed then to add to the humility they throw flower bouquets on top of him which is actually pretty funny to watch.  (The giant 'X' in every scene before anyone gets killed is a nice tough by Hawkes).

We are now a year into Lovo's and his gang running the city and organized crime when we meet up with LB again. He still has high waisted pants and bad taste in clothes though. Look at that tacky horseshoe pin! (The guy is an idiot and I mean that in the nicest way)

Poppy still thinks he's a dote and laughs at him with all of his bragging about bullet proof cars and big houses.  I think she needs to take it easy though since she lives with the crypt keeper and wears mile high fur!  

Lovo calls a meeting with Scarface over his shooting everyone in sight and basically being a real idiot all over town.  He makes it clear that the 'florist' who's a rival isn't to be touched so we can assume the florist gets it next.  The power and money have gone to the guys head which is a dangerous thing when you don't have looks or common sense!  I'm ready to watch Boris Karloff or a houseplant, anything but Lite Bright.

They walk out of the club and duck when a car speeds by. I'm hoping they all get whacked but remember the film is not even close to being over. (I need more Howard Hughes).

The car was just bringing a special delivery!

With a warning! These gangs and their flowers make me appreciate Pacino and his remake

LB hires himself a secretary who has trouble with simple tasks like answering a phone, reading, writing and standing upright.  This is like a bad  Abbott and Costello routine which makes me angry at Howard Hawkes

Yes, this actually happens! The secretary gets so frustrated with trying to figure out a telephone that he attempts to shoot it.

Poppy shows up to check out the new bullet proof window shutters which wouldn't be necessary if he stopped shooting everything that moved. Check your ego buddy!

Poppy gets all hot and bothered after he shows off his new bed with 'inside springs'.  And I was really starting to like her.  They get interrupted when the cops show up.  It seems the 'florist' was gunned down.

Busted! You shouldn't be messing around with this stooge anyway

High waisted pants boys! Let this be a lesson that they are never okay.

The cops called a meeting to see which one of these three could suck the oxygen out of the room the quickest. (My votes on the pip squeak since he made me sit through that telephone bit).

It's Boris Karloff digging through cases of pineapples which sounds about right for how things are going so far.

Oh BK you little sneak.  Someones smuggling machine guns in Lovo's territory without his permission

BK has his own gang who look like newspaper boys so I'm a bit worried for his welfare.

Lite Bright and Poppy meet up at a cafe which is quickly interrupted by gunfire.  I hope they shoot you right out of those big pants buddy.

The secretary gets trapped in the back room where he's busy trying to figure out pay phones and that whole coinage thing.

Still trying to get a dial tone while oblivious to the place being blown to bits as Alexander Graham Bell rolls over in his grave.  

Let's check in with Coin Toss. Maybe he has a clue as to how to get them out of this mess.  Okay, his idea was to throw a vase at a car full of men shooting tommy guns.

They make it to safety after a close call but I'm a bit worried after they pick up a tommy gun left by some newsboys with very bad aim.  

The gang lead by LB head out for a night of bowling or something more sinister but most likely as boring if they're still carrying vases.  (Still cursing Will Hays for making Hughes turn this into a Disney film).

Boris has lost all of his newsboys and pineapples so he's just out trying to have a fun night at the lanes. 

He got gunned down mid roll but still managed a strike! Go out in style Boris like a winner.

The guys head over to the Paradise Club to celebrate and are greeted briefly by a lovely Jean Harlow.  (She would have been hilarious as LB's secretary but you wasted her talent with a walk on cameo).

Coin Toss runs into Cesca who's looking rather thin. (I told you Olive Oil fit) She's now 18 and doing her best to get him interested

She starts doing this very strange dance which makes me worry that she'll break right in two like a twig.

Getting really awkward!  Perhaps she's taking some diet pills with ugly side affects. Coin Toss wants to crawl under the palm plant.

Scarface decides to sit down with Poppy who's still hanging out with Lovo even though he's lost all control over the gang.  Theres a lot of flirting and a disregard for Lovo who's in the midst of a meltdown himself.

LB spots Cesca who gave up on Coin Toss and went back to dancing with her old stand by beau.  She's drunk and he's outraged that she's acting like a trollop.  (She's passed needing a sandwich so hopefully someone will start soaking her cocktails in gravy).

After LB gets Cesca home safely he flees in a hail of gunfire.  (I'm pretty sure it's the fashion police or some raging fashionistas against clownish bow ties).

Theres a fun little car chase with somebody ending up wheel less.  

Yep! By the looks of him it was the fashionistas. They show up at Lovo's office and a confrontation ensues.

Just sit there quietly and toss your coin.  

You were left with a limp, your hairs a mess and your scar is the least of your problems buddy. But at least you lost that secretary somewhere.  (He's probably still trying to find his way out of the bowling alley. Call 911!).

Lovo's with the realization that even Lite Bright can figure out he put the hit out on him.  Bang Bang you're dead!

Olive Oil pays Coin Toss a visit at the office where he's busy lounging around in what appears to be panty hose.  Well he's using scissors on something which is a little masculine.

Oh nevermind! He was sitting there making paper dolls.  This just gets better and better for any guy out there who loves Scarface 1982 and was considering this original.

Awhile later LB is told that little Cesca has moved out and found love with someone so she's shacking up in an apartment downtown.

Cesca's obviously a sucker for men who can make her paper dolls and cause her to dance like theres no tomorrow so Raft is her knew live in beau. (I didn't see that one coming but they're cute together).

Theres a knock at the door which CT goes to answer after glancing over at his fancy pearl handled weapon.  (I yell out for him to take it but sadly he's too good for actual weapons and theres no vases handy).

Coin Toss is met at the door by LB who has one mission.  The poor guy didn't see it coming and Cesca makes me feel worse by announcing they were married the day before and were in love.

The gang ends up at their hide out once the cops get wind of LB shooting Raft.  The entire town is riddled with bullets, shattered vases and dead flowers so I don't know why they are all fired up now.

The cops show up and Dial Tone Joe is the first one to get it in the gut. (He obviously doesn't know how to stay away from doorways either). 

In a completely unnecessary scene Hawkes puts me over the edge by having the nitwit try to answer a phone one last time on his way out. 
Things get worse when Cesca shows up armed and ready for revenge. The place is surrounded by cops but we are to believe she snuck in somehow.  (I'm guessing she hid behind lamp posts the whole way).

He's thinking this is a hopeless situation.  (I feel you Paul Muni I really do).

We get a glance outside which looks serious since they dug out their best firetruck circa 1918 to use as a barricade/light source.

Theres nothing like an old fashioned stand off to bring siblings back together.

Cesca gets excited when LB pulls out his hidden arsenal like it's her first day at fat camp.

I'm not even kidding! She's Baby Jane possessed over loading a tommy gun and ready for a nifty nickname.  (I'm feeling Baby Jane Barker or Moon Dance Kelly).

Lite Bright is having a conniption fit of his own over his bullet proof shutters.  (So glad they are finally coming in handy).

Things just aren't working out for either of them when she takes a bullet. (Shutters that are bullet proof are USELESS when you have the focus of a dung beetle). I really had my hopes up that these two would go places.  And by places I mean downstairs and outside for a crazy ending.

The cops are still there but deciding they better go in since the firetrucks have been reserved for an evening parade.  (Scarface 1982 really needed firetrucks with giant flood lights for the ending to make it a really dazzle).

He's surrendering for parade watchers everywhere. 

OUCH! He went out with class and distorted limbs.

Thanks for sticking with me for this review. It certainly was something else but be nice and keep that something else to yourselves! Ha Ha  Feel free to leave a comment and discuss the film or whatever else comes to mind about the stars, Hawkes, Hughes, paperdolls in gangster films etc.


  1. Excellent pictorial, Page! I love your nicknames for everybody, haha. I laughed so much!


  2. Thanks Caroline!
    Creating nicknames is about the only thing that got me through it. Ha Ha

  3. Ah hah! Now I know why you didn't answer my email saying that Jean Harlow was not in this movie -- it's more fun to humiliate a friend in public! I had NO idea she was in there anywhere -- guess I blinked and missed her! I suppose I was too busy looking for Coin Toss, who has to be one of the best looking men ever in movies! As they would say in Scarfalfa's time, Hotchacha! I know he was very, very short, and so am I, so it wouldn't be a problem, but if I were tall, I'd wear flats and stoop anytime.

    Above-the-waist pants always makes me think of Fred Mertz -- he always wore those gigantic pants pulled up to his armpits!

    I always wondered why they styled Paul Muni's hair in such a dorky way, but I gues that was the style -- except that nobody else looked that bad! Ann Dvorak is just one of my very favorites -- in the scene where Scarfalfa bullies Olive Oyl and there is more than a hint of incest on his mind, she is really good at her fear and revulsion.

    Have you ever seen Al Pacino's Scarface shown on a network channel? It's hilarious. Since literally every other word is the F word, their solution is hysterical. It's always changed to "Oh, fudge" or "Oh darn." or an incredible number of bleeps, just like the Jerry Springer show! I don't know why they even try to show it on ABC!

    LOVE your snark, as always, Page. Good catch on Harlow. But I don't really feel embarrassed. As Errol Flynn said to Little John in Robin Hood "I love a man who can best me!"

  4. Becky,

    I was really just trying to surprise you! HA HA And in fairness, Harlow had the smallest, uncredited walk-on in films.

    As for the high pants you really can't see just how awful they were in the screen grabs but I couldn't stop staring at them. I remember Mertz now that you mention it. His were insanely high.

    One thing I noticed about Raft was how slight in stature he was. I never realized how tiny he was but perhaps the high pants drew my attention to it. I was also pretty disappointed that he had so few lines but he could toss a coin like nobody's business.

    Did you see there what I did with the spelling of Olive Oyl? Cesca was Italian. lol

    When looking up the film and reading about how many scenes were cut by the sensors I did read about the incestuous scenes between Muni and Dvorak that were cut. Who did that Howard Hawke think he was, Hitchcock? Omitting those scenes however controversial they were takes away from his anger and jealousy then leaves you confused about their interactions throughout not to mention her response at the end.

    Regarding the remake. I am surprised they would even attempt to air the remake on television. Admittedly I've only seen it once but found the remake so funny since the original was based on the life of Capone and well, the remake was so not. Plus the clothes were very Miami drug scene stylish.

    The funny thing about this one was the total lack of blood anywhere considering the fire power. Even the Valentines Day Massacre was shown as shadows and the suggestion of what took place. Will Hays had a lot of power and influence. Imagine early films and how interesting they would have been without the censorship?

  5. Well, Page, you did it again. I'm laughing so hard right now. Scarfalfa?? Pure gold. One thing about censorship: Even though the Production Code had been written, it wasn't fully enforced until 1934. The studios did stray because they knew what sold. There are some pretty racy movies from this time period. Anyway, I have been waiting for your next picture review and you didn't disappoint!

  6. Cfb,
    Thanks so much for the kind words.
    I'm glad you're enjoying the photo reviews as much as I am.

    It's fun to revisit these old films that were meant to be serious and put my own take on them.
    My list of films I hope to review keeps growing so who knows whats next up.
    Have a great weekend.

  7. Page, I laughed so long and hard over your SCARFACE pictorial that Vinnie, working in the other room (he works from home Mondays and Fridays to save wear-and-tear on his car; he's got a 90-minute commute) heard me screaming with laughter way down our hall! Your nicknames for the cast were hysterical! If I was giving grades, you'd get an "A" for sure!

  8. Dorian,
    You're a riot! Just glad Vinnie didn't think you were being murdered down the hall then fell and broke a toe on his way to rescue you. I don't think there is such a thing as Blogger Insurance. Ha!

    Glad you enjoyed this review. I had a lot of fun with it. Unlike most I wasn't crazy about the film.