Scarface (1932)

Director: Howard Hawks

(USA| 1932. Black and white. 99 mins.)

Its seminal importance in the early gangster movie cycle outweighed only by its still exhilarating brilliance, this Howard Hughes production was the one unflawed classic the tycoon was involved with. Director Howard Hawks and leading scriptwriter Ben Hecht were after an equation between Al Capone and the Borgias: they provided so much contentious meat for the censors amid the violent cackle of Chicago gangland war that they managed to slip a subsidiary incest theme through unnoticed. Two years haggling ended with the subtitle Shame of a Nation being appended, one cardboard denunciation scene being added, and a hanging finale being substituted for the shootout—happily restored—which closes proceedings with forceful poetry. Unmissable, if only as the first film in which George Raft flips a dime.

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