Was There an Alternate Ending to Scarface Filmed (Without the Film’s Star) to Appease the Censors?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Howard Hughes filmed an entirely different ending to Scarface (withOUT actor Paul Muni) to help appease censors.

Howard Hughes’ 1932 smash hit, Scarface, continued in Hughes’ string of screen hits that he produced that pushed the boundaries of censorship in the various states of the U.S. (this was all before the film industry decided to censor itself – back then, each state had their own censorship laws for films).

In the ending of the film (a fictionalized account of the life of Al Capone), Antonio “Tony” Camonte (played by Paul Muni), escapes police custody and is tracked down. He refuses to surrender and is instead gunned down in a blaze of gunfire.

Director Howard Hawks directs the conclusion of the film brilliantly, if violently.

Here, Tony is struck by police bullets…

See as he gets knocked around by the gunfire…

Here are the police firing on him…

Finally, his dead body lies on the ground…

And Hawks beautifully pulls up and we see a sign on a billboard, almost mocking Tony’s death…

And that is how the film ends, with a close-up of the billboard…

It’s a wonderful ending by Hawks.

The problem was, it was deemed far too violent (not to mention that it seemed to show Tony’s defiance of the police in a bit too positive of a light – almost like he was heroic to take on the police).

Hughes decided that his desire for a hit film outweighed any artistic problems he had with the censorship of the film, and since he could certainly afford the costs of doing so (being, you know, really rich and all), he re-shot a brand-new, censor-geared ending of the film, without Hawks’ presence (or permission).

In this new ending, also filmed withOUT Muni, we pick up from the point where Tony has reluctantly given himself in to the police. In the original film, Tony escapes (only for the police to catch up with him and shoot him dead) – in the new version, Tony does not escape. Instead, the next scene we see is a judge sentencing Tony (Tony is off screen at this point, because Muni was not present for these re-shoots). The NEXT scene is an aerial shot, taken from far away where Tony (played by a stunt double) is taken to the gallows and is hanged.

So Hughes figured that this much-less dramatic ending would satisfy those who wanted a more “moral” ending of the film PLUS less violence.

However, THIS ending was deemed unacceptable by state censors, as well.

So Hughes just said, essentially, “screw it, then” and threw out the new ending and returned to the original. He then released the film only in those states whose censors would allow it – and the film became a smash hit ANYways!

In less than a decade, though, things would be a lot different in the film industry, censorship-wise (which Hughes would be all too familiar with when his film, The Outlaw, was released – but that’s a story for another time!).

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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