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Did Al Capone Take Offense at the 1932 Film “Scarface”?

Al Capone, the notorious gangster, reportedly took a liking to the 1932 film "Scarface," seeing it as a bold, albeit exaggerated, reflection of his own life. While some might expect Capone to bristle at his portrayal, he was, in fact, amused. How did this infamous figure truly feel about his Hollywood counterpart? Join us as we explore the untold story.

One of the Mafia's first meaningful roles in Hollywood came in the mid-1930s, when Bugsy Siegel took control of the extras union and began to extort money from studios. Moviegoers also began to see life in the Mob depicted on the big screen in films such as 1932's "Scarface," which focused on violent gang warfare in Chicago and starred Paul Muni as the murderous racketeer Al Capone. Capone reportedly loved the gangster classic and presented director Howard Hawks with a miniature machine gun as thanks.

Capone's man on the Depression-era set was Puggy White, who proudly gave Hawks advice about how to make the film more realistic, perhaps even about the depiction of the St. Valentine's Day massacre.

More about Al Capone:

  • Capone allegedly insulted a woman at a Brooklyn nightclub in 1917. Her brother took exception, slashing the gangster's face three times.
  • Capone tried to hide the scarred side of his face when photographed, often calling the scars "war wounds." After rising to prominence as a gangster, the press called him Scarface, a nickname he intensely disliked.
  • Criminal associates referred to Capone as the "Big Fellow." Friends knew him as "Snorky," a term that meant "spiffy" back in those days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Al Capone have any reaction to the 1932 film "Scarface"?

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

While there is no definitive record of Al Capone's personal reaction to the 1932 film "Scarface," it is widely believed that he was not overtly offended by it. According to some accounts, Capone's only known response was sending two of his men to watch the film. The movie, which was inspired by his life, did not seem to provoke a public condemnation or retaliation from the notorious gangster.

Was the character of Tony Camonte in "Scarface" based on Al Capone?

Yes, the character of Tony Camonte in the 1932 film "Scarface," portrayed by Paul Muni, was indeed based on Al Capone. The film's producers drew inspiration from Capone's infamous criminal career, and the character's last name, Camonte, even bears a resemblance to Capone's. The film's depiction of the violent rise and fall of a gangster mirrored aspects of Capone's life in organized crime.

How did the public perceive the film "Scarface" in the context of Al Capone's notoriety?

The public perception of "Scarface" at the time of its release was heavily influenced by the notoriety of Al Capone. The film was released shortly after Capone's incarceration for tax evasion, at a time when his criminal exploits were well-known. The movie's violent content and the clear parallels to Capone's life stirred controversy and fascination, contributing to its enduring legacy as a classic gangster film.

Did "Scarface" face any censorship issues due to its violent content and connection to Al Capone?

Indeed, "Scarface" faced significant censorship challenges upon its release. The Hays Code, which set moral guidelines for films, demanded changes to the film's content due to its excessive violence and the glamorization of crime. The film's producers were forced to add scenes that condemned gangsterism and a subtitle, "The Shame of the Nation," to appease censors and distance the film from glorifying figures like Al Capone.

Has "Scarface" had a lasting impact on the portrayal of gangsters in cinema, and how does it relate to Al Capone's legacy?

"Scarface" has had a profound impact on the portrayal of gangsters in cinema, setting a precedent for the gritty, complex depiction of organized crime figures. Its influence can be seen in numerous subsequent films in the genre. The movie contributed to the mythologization of Al Capone's legacy, cementing his image in popular culture as the quintessential American gangster, a figure both reviled and romanticized for his criminal exploits.

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