An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.
It must not have been easy for him because Muni is absolutely mesmerizing as the totally amoral Tony Camonte. After Scarface was released Muni was inundated with offers to play gangsters which he rejected. Interesting because without knowing it another of the cast in Scarface, Boris Karloff, would be ultimately trapped in the horror film genre. Muni assuredly avoided Karloff's fate.
Another cast member, George Raft, got his big film break playing Muni's right hand man. For Raft this was art imitating life, these were the people who were his pallies in real life, there was never any acting involved. Raft never really had too many acclaimed performances away from the gangster/big city genre.
Camonte is the ultimate killing machine. He knows only one law the law of the jungle. He'll rise by any means possible, use anyone it takes, kill anyone who gets in his way. He has only two weaknesses, an obsession that borders on incestuous desires for his sister Ann Dvorak and a kind of affection for his factotum Vince Barnett. That's the kind of affection you have for a pet.
Barnett who usually played drunks and hangers-on got his career role out of Scarface. What comic relief there is in the film he provides. He's got some good moments as a 'secretary' trying to take a phone message with bullets flying all around him. Had he been not dispatched to take the message the machine gun bullets would have found their mark easily in the taller Muni.
Scarface is also art that imitates life. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the history of gangland war in the Chicago of the Twenties will recognize Muni as Capone, Boris Karloff as Bugs Moran, and Osgood Perkins as Johnny Torio. Capone could have sued, but right about then he was having much bigger problems with Internal Revenue.
We can't forget Karen Morley who played Poppy the girl who likes to go with a winner. She shifts from Perkins to Muni and away from Muni when it becomes necessary. In her own way, she's as amoral as Muni.
Scarface along with Public Enemy and Little Caesar set the standard for gangster films. The updated 1983 remake with Al Pacino in Muni's part is a good film itself and got a lot of its audience with some really gory scenes.
Muni did it with talent alone.
- Jan 20, 2007