This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Humanizing the Gangster: An Examination into the Character from Hawks’ to DePalma’s Scarface




Kirby, Nicholas

Type of Degree



Communication and Journalism


This thesis determines why the film gangster gained acceptance in American society through an examination of both the 1932 and 1983 versions of Scarface. The gangster depicted in the earlier film was characterized as a --Y΄monster‘ that committed heinous crimes with no remorse. This was the predominant view of the gangster until the late 1960s. However, as American society changed, so did the view of the gangster. Landmark films in the gangster genre like Bonnie and Clyde and The Godfather presented a gangster character that was no longer a monster; rather, a gangster that had become humanized. An examination into this genre shift is explored using Howard Hawks’ and Brian DePalma’s Scarface. The earlier film represents the more classical view of the gangster as a --Y΄monster,‘ while DePalma’s Scarface presents the gangster in a far more positive light. A study of the plot, setting, characters, themes, motifs, and props found in both films present a different view of the gangster, one that is more a dark, unsavory character in the 1932 Scarface and one that is a more respectable, almost sympathetic character in the 1983 version.