This Day In History: December 9

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The actor Al Pacino stars as a Cuban refugee who becomes a Miami crime boss in Scarface, which opens in theaters on December 9, 1983.

In Scarface, Pacino played Tony Montana, who arrives in Florida from Cuba in 1980 and eventually becomes wealthy from his involvement in the booming cocaine business. Things fall apart when Tony becomes addicted to the drug and his world collapses in violence. Directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay by Oliver Stone, Scarface co-starred Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Robert Loggia. The film was loosely based on a 1932 gangster film of the same name, directed by Howard Hawks and reportedly inspired in part by the real-life mobster Al “Scarface” Capone. Though De Palma’s Scarface received mixed reviews upon its initial release and was criticized for its violence, it proved to be a success at the box-office and went on to achieve pop-culture status.

Tony Montana is just one of many notable roles in the career of Pacino, who was born on April 25, 1940, in New York City. He first gained notice for his portrayal as a young drug addict in 1971’s The Panic in Needle Park, which was produced by Dominick Dunne and written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. Pacino’s next film (just the third of his career) was the director Francis Ford Coppola’s now-iconic crime-family drama The Godfather (1972), co-starring Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall. Pacino received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as the conflicted crime boss Michael Corleone, a role he would reprise in the acclaimed sequels The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990).

Throughout the rest of the 1970s, Pacino turned in a number of acclaimed performances, garnering three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, for Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and …And Justice for All (1979). In the ensuing decades, the prolific actor continued to rack up an impressive list of credits in such films as the 1989 hit Sea of Love, opposite Ellen Barkin; Dick Tracy (1990), for which he earned yet another Best Actor Oscar nomination; and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), for which he received a nod for Best Supporting Actor.

He took home his first Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a blind, retired Army officer in Scent of a Woman (1992). Among Pacino’s other memorable films are the 1970s-era gangster drama Carlito’s Way (1993); the New York mafia drama Donnie Brasco (1997); the Oscar-nominated The Insider (1999), with Russell Crowe; and director Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999), in which Pacino played a pro football coach. In 2008, Pacino teamed up with another Italian-American screen legend, Robert De Niro, to play New York City police detectives in Righteous Kill; the two appeared again in 2019's mob drama The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese.