Everyone has seen the 1983 version of Scarface with Al Pacino playing Cuban drug dealer Tony Montana. But the original 1932 version starring Paul Muni as an Italian gangster named Tony Camonte is just as good and in some ways better. For starters, the first movie is much more political. It explicitly says that its intention is to mobilize the public to fight organized crime—in particular Italian organized crime. They leave out the Democratic machines in New York City, Chicago, and Boston, which shows that even then few understood that the people watching your pocketbook were skimming off some of what was inside.
The styles in the 1932 version, directed by Howard Hawks, are an awful lot better than those in the later version directed by Brian De Palma. To be a little crude here, both versions have Tony, the gangster, attracted to stylish women who would not be confused with Sofia Vergara. The point must be that these crude, vicious men favor women whose bodies are slender and elegant rather than the showgirl curves that one would expect. In both versions, Tony has a sister--called Cesca in 1932 and Gina in the ’83 movie—who have the same kind of exquisite figures and stylish clothing. In both cases, big brother doesn’t want his sister taking her male companions from the hoodlum pool.
However, one of the sexiest movie scenes of all time happens in the beginning of the earlier Scarface: Johnny Lovo is Camonte’s crime boss. Camonte lusts for both Lovo’s position and his girlfriend, Poppy. As Camonte leaves Lovo’s apartment, Poppy bends over so he can see the luscious outline of her buttocks.
There is a big difference between the style and quality of the clothes in the two versions. Pacino goes for the Florida white suit look, but his suits are too big and look cheap, and he never wears a tie. The suits have built up shoulders—probably because Pacino has no shoulders of his own. Throughout the movie, Montana looks like an off-duty croupier. Paul Muni, who was built like a light heavyweight and has a strong physical presence, wears tight double-breasted suits and garish ties. Camonte talks proudly of his new clothes, but his suits are usually light colored, which sends a message, because all the classy guys in that era of cinema wore dark-colored suits.
The cops in Scarface 1 are honest and wear dark suits; the corrupt cop in Scarface 2 tries to dress like Tony.
I knew a lot of big drug dealers in the ’80s, and they all wore high-end Italian clothing. If their suits had looked or fit like Tony Montana’s, their tailors would be swimming with the dolphins—face up.
Montana’s shirts are ordinary while Camonte’s have a look specific to the time: no collar stays. Collar stays are put into shirt collars to make them stay in place. The collars in Scarface 1 are long and pointed and are very soft looking, with the points of the collars very close together. The tie knots are long and narrow (a look I like).
There are lots of wide-striped shirts in Scarface 1. The shirts in Scarface 2 don’t deserve to be talked about.
Everyone wears pocket squares in Scarface 1, and they’re shoved into the breast pocket so that they flop over the pocket. It looks effeminate. In Tony’s case, the hankie contrasts with the large and brutal scar on his face just above the pocket. The scar is shaped like a cross. I have not a clue as to whether there is some meaning to that.
The topcoats and hats in Scarface 1 are gorgeous. Always very dark, with dark buttons, the topcoats are double breasted and have the buttons placed high, so when they are buttoned they cover the throat nicely. The collars also look intimidating when flipped up.
But it’s the hats that do it (well, it’s the bending over scene that does it for me). Everybody wears hats.
if you look at man wearing a fedora today, the brim is almost always turned up in the back. In movies from the ’30s and ’40s, they are turned down. Don't ask me why. The crowns are higher in Scarface 1 than they are now and the brims are wider. The combination makes a man walking with his hands in his pockets look like a destroyer cutting through the sea, which is the idea.
All the actors in Scarface 1 wear dressing gowns over pajamas. They favor big paisleys. Poppy wears a white negligee and does wonders for it. If you are going to kill or be killed for woman, Poppy is the one.