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Scarface History

Monday, July 28, 2014    
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Scarface - a brief history

The name "Scarface" has referred to a number of characters over the years: Al Capone, an American real-life gangster, Tony Montana, a Cuban cocaine trafficker in the 1983 movie "Scarface", a rapper who is a member of the Geto Boys, the dummy used by a Batman villian, and a boss character in the video game "Mega man X: Command Mission". This page will be a brief history of the characters represented by the 1932 and 1983 films.

Al Capone

Al Capone was the first to go by the name of "Scarface".  Born in 1899 in New York City to Italian immigrants, he began his career in Brooklyn and later moved to Chicago, where he became the boss of the criminal organization "The Chicago Outfit".  His crime syndicate specialized in prostitution and the illegal trafficking of alcohol, during prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s.  Although Capone's enterprises were extremely successful (estimated to be grossing 100 million per year between 1925 and 1930), he avoided prosecution for years by bribing city officials and intimidating witnesses.

Capone-time-sm.jpg Capone obtained his lifelong nickname "Scarface" during a fight during his youth with Frank Gallucio while a bartender and bouncer at the seedy Harvard Inn bar in Brooklyn. During the fight, his face was slashed twice, and he retained scars for these wounds for the rest of his life. 

In 1929, Capone allegedly orchestrated the St. Valentines Day Massacre on the north side of Chicago, in which seven members of Bugs Maron's (Capone's arch-rival) gang were assassinated with submachine guns.  There were several unsuccessful assasination attempts against Capone during the 1920s. Once he was shot while at a restaurant, and his car and office were riddled with bullets at various times, but he survived. Capone became Public Enemy Number 1 in 1930, and was pursued vigorously by the legendary Eliot Ness and his hand-picked team of U.S. Prohibition agents "The Untouchables".

Ness was never able to convict Capone of racketeering charges, but after discovering coded accounting records in a routine warehouse raid, he was able to obtain Capone's conviction on tax evasion charges.  Capone began his prison time in Atlanta in May 1932, and was transferred to the legendary Alcatraz.  He remained there until January 1939, and was then released to a correctional institution in California for a one-year misdemeanor sentence.  In November 1939, he was released, and relocated to his home in Palm Island, Florida.  He remained there until his death in January 1947.

Scarface 1932 movie
scarface-1932-poster-sm.gif 

Scarface: The Shame of the Nation - 1932

The 1932 movie "Scarface" was a gangster film based loosely on the life of Al "Scarface" Capone.  This movie tells the story of bodyguard Tony Camonte, and his violent rise to the top of the local crime syndicate.  It was directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Howard Hughes.  It was based on the novel "Scarface" by Armitage Trail.

The movie was completed in 1930 but because of excessive violence and concerns about glorification of the gangster lifestyle, censors prevented its release until 1932.  The censors required editing, a new introduction and epilogue, and the addition of the subtitle "The Shame of the Nation" in order for it to be released.   Capone reportedly liked the film and had his own copy of it.

The movie was designated as "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress.  It was also selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry.  This character is ranked by the American Film Institute as #47 on their "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villians" list.

Scarface 1983

In 1983 Brian DePalma directed a remake of the 1932 movie.  It was written by Oliver Stone, and starred Al Pacino as a fictional Cuban refugee who comes to Florida in 1980 and ascends through cocaine dealing and violence to the top of Miami's organized crime syndicate. 

Scarface-1983-poster.jpg The lead character retained the name "Tony" from the 1932 original, but had a different last name... Montana.  Writer Stone claims that his last name was taken from his favorite football player Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers.  Stone consulted with the Miami police and the DEA while writing the film and incorporated many true crimes into the story.  

As in the case of the original 1932 version, this movie faced similar challenges with the ratings board.  When it was originally submitted to the MPAA, its extreme violence and graphic language earned the film an X rating.  Even after DePalma made 2 further revisions, it still retained the X rating, until DePalma was finally able to convince the board to release it with an R, with the assistance of a panel of experts and real narcotics officers.

One of the most famous lines in the movie is "Say hello to my little friend".  It has been requoted in many other movies and television shows.  Although the movie drew mostly negative reviews by most movie critics, it grossed over $65 million worldwide and has reached cult status in the subsequent years.

Scarface: The World is Yours
Scarface-the-world-is-yours.jpg A licensed video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours was released in September 2006, developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Vivendi Universal Games. The game is a pseudo-sequel, and goes on the premise that Tony actually survived the raid on his mansion from the end of the film, shooting his way out of his mansion and escaping. The rest of the game deals with Tony getting his revenge on Sosa. It is a free roaming game similar to the Grand Theft Auto titles and includes a lot of freedom over drug running, laundering money, buying items for the player's mansion, buying cars and protecting shipments of drugs from the police. The Xbox 360 version of this title was recently cancelled. However, a PlayStation Portable version has been released in place of it under the name of Money. Power. Respect. It is a turn-based strategy game. A Wii version of the PS2 and Xbox games has also been announced.  To date, the game has sold over 2 million copies.

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