Scarface, Swing Time, and Sex on Screen

Scarface (Hawks/Rosson, 1932) and Swing Time (Stevens, 1936) show the implied nature of sex on screen in different ways, one being quite direct and the other doing so the metaphor of dance. They both however, do this through the building of character relationships, dialogue, and showing the importance of the possession of bodies. Scarface does this by showing how the possession of one by another affects a relationship and Swing Time does this by showing the importance of how a relationship is symbiotic.

In Scarface, the relationships between the characters are the main topic of discussion when it comes to showing sex on screen throughout by showing how a male body possess a female body. The most prominent example of this would be Tony Camonte and his relationships with female characters, first off being his younger sister Francesca. As Tony grows in power and recklessness, so does his abusiveness and ownership of those female figures. Tony sees woman as something below than he is because he increasingly believes that he is not only beyond the reach of the law, but also that of the societal norms of the time.

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Cesca is somewhat of an exception to this rule however. Although it’s not explicitly stated, the understanding of their relationship is that they are something more than brother and sister…more than a brother and sister should be. Tony is so over protective with her because he loves her but most importantly wants to keep her pure and innocent for himself. These incestuous undertones are what make their relationship so complex compared to that of for example, Tony and Poppy.

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Eventually, Tony’s overprotectiveness pushes Cesca to become more and more expressive of herself and starts a relationship with Tony’s right hand man, Guino. He, unlike her, is very experienced and knows his way around woman. Initially hesistant, Cesca convinces him that she’s ready for what she wants to do with him with stating that she has grown up ideas, and implication of sex and her thoughts about it. Cesca goes from the ownership under Tony to Guino, but what’s unsure is if Guino also truly loved her like Cesca did for him. On the other hand, however is the relationship between Tony and Poppy…which is more like Tony’s possession of Poppy. It’s interesting how Scarface portrays woman as a display of power. Owning the most beautiful girl in the room, in a way, means that one is the most powerful man in the room. Poppy however enjoys this, as she becomes more interested in him as his status grows. Tony implies what he’d like to do with her when she asks how he’s going to have enough material to wear a new set of clothes, specifically being ties. When he says “And here it is”, pointing to his bed, he is being quite obvious about the play on words. To no surprise, Poppy shows no regret when jumping ship from Johnny to Tony, proving that she enjoys being possessed as a form of power by men.

Starring Fred Aistare as Lucky and Ginger Rogers as Penny, Swing Time still manages to reference plenty of sex on screen using different methods compared to Scarface, being that it is post implementation of the code. The film tells the audience this by showing how two bodies can equally play a part in love, but not explicitly on screen. Swing Time does this through character relationships, and most importantly its dances and musical numbers.

Dances and musical numbers in the film are where Lucky and Penny grow and open up to each other in their relationship, just like how perhaps couples would use sex as a way to do so. Sex, in its truest form is about two bodies connecting and working with each other, much like how dance is. Instead of showing sex, Swing Time uses dance in this way even though it’s implied that they eventually do have it. In contrast to how Scarface shows bodies being possessed by one another, Swing Time shows how relationships must be symbiotic in order to succeed and that overtime, people will grow closer they experience more together..

Character relationships between male and female characters in Swing Time are quite different to that of Scarface, the main three being Lucky/Penny, Ricardo/Penny, and Lucky/Margaret. Lucky and Penny are the most important example of how dance is used as a way of showing the connection normally built by a couple with sex. Their chemistry grows as each musical sequence plays out, revealing their secrets, thoughts and true feelings. One example would be when Lucky admits for the first time that he truly loves her with “The Way You Look Tonight”, whereas only after does Penny attempts several times to get him to admit to his feelings for her. Her friend Mabel already noticed his feelings, but Penny could no or did not want to realize this. It’s not until “A Fine Romance” does he truly admit his feelings for her. Swing Time uses musical numbers to highlight a big step – pun intended – in each act and the relationship between the two.

The relationship between Ricardo & Penny is in a way similar to how the relationship between Tony and Poppy does, but never reaches the point of the latter because of Ricardo’s overall lack of success in life and how he treats her in general. An example of this would be Ricardo’s comment on what Penny’s choice of clothing in the dressing room, insinuating his thoughts about her when he sees her wearing a dress like that. Penny never accepts his advances until she believes its last resort and all is lost, after Lucky admits that he’s engaged AND introduces her to his fiancé. His attempts, like his crippling addiction to gambling, are proven to be futile in the end when Poppy drops him again for Lucky because of the actual relationship the two have built together over their intimate moments together…their dances, or in a manner of speaking – sex. Lucky and Margaret on the other hand, lose their relationship over time because of the lack of intimate connection.

Despite one being pre implementation of the code and one being post implantation, Scarface and Swing Time show the importance of consistent intimate moments in order to create a strong, lasting, and most importantly real relationship. Without these, a relationship will become what Lucky and Margaret came to be and never what Lucky and Penny are, the thing so many people want to have in their lives. Scarface, on the other hand, shows what effect power can have on relationships, whether it’s a show of status or the hope of personal pleasure. In the long run, they both show how the possession of bodies by people can affect people, for better or for worst.

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Scarface, Swing Time, and Sex on Screen. (2021, Oct 14). Retrieved from

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