“I wanted to do the Capone family as if they were the Borgias set down in Chicago.” - Howard Hawks on Scarface
Scarface (1932) Official Movie Trailer
Scarface - 1932 (Original Poster)
Released: April 9, 1932 Running time 93 minutes
The buffet of bullets that Howard Hawks served up in his 1932 film “Scarface” was rather difficult dining for the censors of that era.
The Hays Office, which began monitoring the morality of motion pictures in 1930, called for numerous rewrites of the script. Frustrated with this constant meddling, producer Howard Hughes finally sent the following instructions to his director, 35-year old Howard Hawks: “make it as realistic, as grisly as possible.”
Hawks did his job well, perhaps too well. The blunt force, often spooky atmosphere, sexual innuendo, and massive body count had local and national guardians of public morality gasping for breath.
Originally shot in 1931 as Hawks’ first film with sound, the film was held back from release until 1932 as Howard Hughes battled with local censors and the people he had annoyed at the Hays office.
Several last minute attempts were made to soothe the wrath of the censors. Several scenes were edited; the film gained a” The Shame of The Nation” subtitle and a text intro which pleaded for the government to crack down on mob violence.
When these efforts failed, Howard Hawks shot a new ending in which the gangster Tony is captured by the police, tried, and sentenced to death by hanging.
The censors were still reluctant to approve “Scarface” for release.
Tired of compromising, Hughes and Hawks decided to abandon most of the edits and the new ending to show it in the few states that lacked strict censors. On March 31, 1932, the movie premiered without approval of the Hays Office.
Although he had achieved a measure of success prior to this intense work, “Scarface” was the film that established Howard Hawks as a major director.
French critic/director Jean-Luc Godard named it the best American sound film. In 2008, when the American Film Institute released its list of Top Ten Gangster Films, the Howard Hawks version of “Scareface” was number six on the list, while the 1983 Brian De Palma/ Al Pacino remake came in at number 10.
Director: Howard Hawks Richard Rosson (co-director)
Producer: Howard Hughes
Screenplay: Ben Hecht (Based on novel, Scarface by Armitage Trail)
Cinematography: Lee Garmes and L.W. O'Connell
Editor: Edward Curtiss
Set Decoration: Harry Oliver Studio: The Caddo Company
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.