Sunday, July 10, 2016

Scarface: A Call To Arms

This entry is for the Hot and Bothered 1932  blogathon event.  As I was trying to think of a movie that premiered in 1932 an image popped into my head.   The image was of an opening credit statement. This statement was like a jolt to me when I first read it.  It is as follows:

"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 occurrence, 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?"

This damning statement...this essential call to arms appears in the opening credits of "Scarface."  When most people hear the name "Scarface" it is a good guess that the first thing or only thing they think of is the 1983 Brian De Palma film starring Al Pacino. That used to be the only film that would pop into my head.  It was a surprise to learn that the there was a 1932 version of this movie.  And it is obviously this earlier version that is the topic of this blog post.  It is this version that had the call to arms in the opening credits.

Scarface was produced by Howard Hughes and Howard Hawks, and it was co-directed by Hawks and Richard Rosson.  It starred Paul Muni, George Raft, Ann Dvorak, Osgood Perkins ( Anthony Perkins' father), and Boris Karloff.  The movie follows the rise and fall of Tony Camonte.  Tony has big dreams. He dreams of being top of the world.  Top of the gang world to be more precise.  His motto in achieving this dream is "to do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it." When he shares his philosophy, he points to his gun.  So you can infer that he means you pull the trigger first, you pull the trigger yourself, and you keep pulling it until no one stands in your way.  With this life philosophy, it isn't surprising that the world Tony inhabits is a very violent world, and the movie does not shy away in showing this violence.  The movie doesn't shy away in showing how that violence spills over and touches the lives of  the innocent bystanders outside that gang world.  We have scenes such as the main character walking into a hospital and shooting an adversary.  There are many scenes of drive by shootings from speeding cars with no care for a bystander that could be out on the street. We see a city terrorized by a gang war.  So it starts to become clear why there is a feeling of anger in the opening statement of the movie. It becomes clear why there is a demand for action. And what of our main character and those that inhabit his world?

As with many movies back in the 1930s, the gangster life doesn't have a happy ending.  Tony comes across as a bit of a psycho, who destroys the lives of the closest people to him. Even his own mother said "He hurts everyone." He is obsessed with his younger sister, Tessa, and hates the idea of her being with any man.  He is quick with the trigger.  Now that is a combination that doesn't bode well. Also he has the Cops after him, and he has enemies waiting to pump him full of lead every time he goes outside. I won't go into specific details as not to spoil too much.  This is a very good movie, and I highly recommend it.  Even though it premiered in 1932, I think modern audiences will find at least some aspects timeless.  There are present day cities still terrorized by violence with a call to action to end it. So immerse yourself into the crazy world of Tony Camonte, Scarface and see how the more things change, the more they stay the same.