Friday, October 25, 2013

George Raft












It was George Raft that got Mae West into the movies. And like her, he also had links to the mob.


George Raft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        
George Raft
George Raft in Invisible Stripes trailer.jpg
From the trailer for Invisible Stripes (1939)
BornGeorge Ranft
(1901-09-26)September 26, 1901
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 24, 1980(1980-11-24) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActor
Years active1929–1978
Spouse(s)Grace Mulrooney (1923-1970; her death)
George Raft (born George Ranft; September 26, 1901 – November 24, 1980) was an American film actor and dancer identified with portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s. A stylish leading man in dozens of movies, today George Raft is mostly known for his gangster roles in the original Scarface (1932), Each Dawn I Die (1939), and Billy Wilder's 1959 comedy Some Like it Hot, as a dancer in Bolero (1934), and a truck driver in They Drive by Night (1940). Raft's real-life association with New York gangsters gave his screen image in mob films an added realism.

Early life

Raft was born on September 26, 1901[1] in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, the son of Eva (Glockner) and Conrad Ranft. His father was born in Massachusetts to German immigrant parents, and his mother was a German immigrant.[citation needed] His parents were married on November 17, 1895 in Manhattan (1900 census records give the year of marriage as 1896, and years married as four). His sister, Eva, known as "Katie," was born on April 18, 1896. Although Raft's birth year in obituaries has been reported as 1895, the 1900 Census for New York City lists his elder sister, Katie, as his parents' only child, with two children born and only one living.[2] On the 1910 Census, he is listed as being eight years old, and his birth record can be found in the New York City birth index as being 1901.[1][3] A boyhood friend of gangster Owney Madden (and later a "wheel man" for the mob), Raft admitted narrowly avoiding a life of crime.[4] Raft spoke German fluently, having learned the language from his parents.

Dancer

As a young man Raft showed aptitude in dancing which, with his elegant fashion sense, enabled him to earn work as a dancer in New York City nightclubs, often in the same venues as Rudolph Valentino before Valentino became a movie actor. Raft became part of the stage act of flamboyant speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan, and his success led him to Broadway where he again worked as a dancer. He later made a semi-autobiographical film called Broadway (1942) about this period in which he plays himself. He also worked in London as a chorus boy in the early 1920s.[citation needed] Fred Astaire, in his autobiography Steps in Time (1959), says Raft was a lightning-fast dancer and did "the fastest Charleston I ever saw."[5]
Vi Kearney, later a dancer in shows for Charles B. Cochran and André Charlot, was quoted as saying:
Oh yes, I knew him (George Raft). We were in a big show together. Sometimes, to eke out our miserable pay, we'd do a dance act after the show at a club and we'd have to walk back home because all the buses had stopped for the night by that time. He'd tell me how he was going to be a big star one day and once he said that when he'd made it how he'd make sure to arrange a Hollywood contract for me. I just laughed and said: 'Come on, Georgie, stop dreaming. We're both in the chorus and you know it.' [Did he arrange the contract?] Yes. But by that time I'd decided to marry... [Was he (Raft) ever your boyfriend?] How many times do I have to tell you ...chorus girls don't go out with chorus boys.[citation needed]

Gangster icon

In 1929, Raft relocated to Hollywood and took small roles. In Taxi! (1932) with James Cagney and Loretta Young, Raft has a colorful unbilled dancing role as Cagney's competitor in a dance contest who wins only to be knocked down by Cagney's loonily pugnacious character. His big break came later that same year as the nickel-flipping second lead alongside Paul Muni's raging killer in Scarface (1932), and Raft's convincing portrayal led to speculation that Raft was a gangster. Due to his lifelong friendship with Owney Madden, Raft was a friend or acquaintance of several other crime figures, including Bugsy Siegel and Siegel's old friend Meyer Lansky. Raft and boxer-turned actor/comedian "Slapsie" Maxie Rosenbloom were lifelong friends as well - in fact, Raft was Maxie's mentor from childhood. When Gary Cooper's romantic escapades put him on one gangster's hit list, Raft reportedly interceded and persuaded the mobster to spare Cooper.[6][7] Orson Welles explained to Peter Bogdanovich in their interview book This is Orson Welles that, as Raft's career accelerated, the actor was particularly an idol and role model for actual gangsters of the period in terms of dress and attitude.
He was one of the three most popular gangster actors of the 1930s, with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson; Raft ranked far above Humphrey Bogart in fame and boxoffice clout throughout the decade. When the studio refused to hire Texas Guinan, the performer upon whom one of the movie's characters was based, because of her age, Raft advocated for the casting of his friend, Mae West, in a supporting role in his first film as leading man, Night After Night (1932), which launched her movie career.[8] Raft appeared the following year in Raoul Walsh's energetic period piece The Bowery as Steve Brodie, supposedly the first man to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive, with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray and Pert Kelton. Raft memorably dances into the picture in his opening scene wearing a derby.
Some of his other movies include If I Had A Million (1932; an episodic ensemble film in which he plays a forger hiding from police, suddenly given a million dollars with no place to cash the check), Bolero (1934; in a rare role as a dancer rather than a gangster), Limehouse Blues (1934; with Anna May Wong), a brutal and fast-paced adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (1935; remade in 1942 with Alan Ladd in Raft's role as a result of the success of the remake of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon), Souls at Sea (1937; with Gary Cooper), Spawn of the North (1938; with Raft garnering top billing over Henry Fonda and John Barrymore), two with Humphrey Bogart: Invisible Stripes (1939) and They Drive by Night (1940), with Bogart in supporting roles, Each Dawn I Die (1939; with James Cagney and Raft as convicts in prison), and Manpower (1941; with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich). Although Raft received third billing in Manpower, he played the lead.

Unexpected career decline

The years 1940 and 1941 proved to be Raft's career peak. He went into a gradual professional decline over the next decade, in part due to allegedly turning down some of the most-famous roles in movie history. Raoul Walsh's High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon transformed Humphrey Bogart from supporting player to a major force in Hollywood in 1941. Raft chose Raoul Walsh's Manpower over The Maltese Falcon because the Falcon's director, John Huston, had never directed before and a racier pre-Code version of the film already existed. Raft was also reported to have turned down Bogart's role in Casablanca (1942), although according to some Warner Bros. memos, this story is apocryphal.[9]
Following the release of the espionage thriller Background to Danger (1943), a film intended to capitalize on the success of Casablanca, Raft demanded termination of his Warner Brothers contract. Jack Warner was prepared to pay Raft a $10,000 settlement, but the actor either misunderstood or was so eager to be free of the studio that it was he who gave Warner a check in that amount.[citation needed] Raft is widely believed to have been functionally illiterate, which could account for the confusion.

Judy Canova and George Raft pictured in 1979
Raft's career as a leading man continued through the 1940s with films of gradually declining quality, spiraling steadily downward until his name was finally limited as a box office draw.
During the 1950s he was reduced to working as a greeter at the Capri Casino in Mob dominated Havana, Cuba, where he was a part owner.[10] In 1953, Raft also starred as Lt. George Kirby in a syndicated television series police drama titled I'm the Law, which ran for one season and was one of the earliest instances of a movie star of his previous calibre accepting the lead in a TV series. He wound up occasionally accepting supporting roles in movies, such as playing second fiddle to Robert Taylor in Rogue Cop (1954).
Raft satirized his gangster image with a well-received supporting performance in Some Like it Hot (1959), but this did not lead to a comeback, and he spent the remainder of the decade making films in Europe. He played a small role as a casino owner in Ocean's 11 (1960) opposite the Rat Pack. He was an American-speaking syndicate leader alongside the French iconic actor, Jean Gabin in the 1966 French gangster movie, Du rififi à Paname. He also had cameos in 1967's James Bond spoof Casino Royale and a 'rock group as spies' farce The Phynx. His final film appearances were in Sextette (1978), reunited with Mae West in a cameo, and The Man with Bogart's Face (1980), a nod to 1940's detective movies.
Ray Danton played Raft in The George Raft Story (1961), which co-starred Jayne Mansfield. Raft himself excoriated the movie upon its release due to inaccuracies.
In the 1991 biographical movie Bugsy, the character of George Raft was played by Joe Mantegna.
Raft has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for contributions to Motion Pictures at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Television at 1500 Vine St.

Personal life

Raft married Grayce Mulrooney, several years his senior, in 1923, long before his stardom. The pair separated soon thereafter, but the devoutly Catholic Mulrooney refused to grant a divorce, Raft remained married to and supporting her until her death in 1970. A romantic figure in Hollywood, Raft had love affairs with Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West. He stated publicly that he wanted to marry Norma Shearer, with whom he had a long romance, but his wife's refusal to allow a divorce eventually caused Shearer to end the affair.[4][11]
When James Cagney became president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1942 for a two-year term, he took a role in the Guild's fight against the Mafia, which had taken an active interest in the movie industry. Cagney's wife, Billie, once received a phone call telling her that Cagney was dead.[12] Cagney alleged that, having failed to scare him and the Guild off, they sent a hit man to kill him by dropping a heavy light onto his head. On hearing about the rumor of the hit, George Raft made a call, and the hit was supposedly cancelled.[13][14]
In 1967 he was denied entry into the United Kingdom (where he had been installed as Casino Director at a casino known as the "Colony Club") due to his underworld associations.[15]

Death

Raft died from leukemia at age of 79 in Los Angeles, California, on November 24, 1980. Two days earlier, Mae West had died and their bodies were at one point alongside each other in the hallway of the same mortuary at the same time. Raft was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Filmography

Short Subjects:
  • Hollywood on Parade No. A-9 (1933)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. B-5 (1933)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. B-8 (1934)
  • The Fashion Side of Hollywood (1935)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 4 (1938)
  • Meet the Stars #6: Stars at Play (1941)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 2 (1941)
  • Hollywood Park (1946)
  • Screen Snapshots: Vacation at Del Mar (1949)

Roles Rejected

Raft turned down roles in the following films:[16][17]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b United States Census 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1025; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 0668; Image: 1107; FHL Number: 1375038.
  2. ^ United States Census 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: T623_1109; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 642.
  3. ^ via Associated Press, "'Tough guy' George raft dies of emphysema at 85", The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 25, 1980. Accessed August 10, 2009. "After growing up in New York's tough Hell's Kitchen area, Raft was a boxer, electrician and baseball player before landing a job as a dancer in nightclubs in the 1920s."
  4. ^ a b Beaver, Jim. George Raft. Films in Review, April, 1978.
  5. ^ Astaire, Fred, Steps in Time. ISBN 0-06-156756-6.
  6. ^ Beaver, Jim "George Raft", Films in Review, April, 1978.
  7. ^ Yablonsky, Lewis George Raft, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974. ISBN 0-07-072235-8.
  8. ^ Parish, James Robert. The George Raft File: The Unauthorized Biography. New York: Drake Publishers, 1973. ISBN 0-87749-520-3.
  9. ^ Behlmer, Rudy Inside Warner Bros. (1913-1951), ISBN 0-671-63135-7.
  10. ^ http://cuban-exile.com/doc_276-300/doc0288.html
  11. ^ Wallace, Stone. George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart. ISBN 1-59393-204-9.
  12. ^ Warren, Doug & Cagney, James (1986) [1983]. Cagney: The Authorized Biography (Mass Market ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 166. ISBN ISBN 0-312-90207-7. 
  13. ^ Warren, Doug & Cagney, James (1986 [1983]). Cagney: The Authorized Biography (Mass Market ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 166. ISBN ISBN 0-312-90207-7. 
  14. ^ Cagney, James (2005 [1976]). Cagney by Cagney. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-52026-3. 
  15. ^ http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1967/mar/02/mr-george-raft
  16. ^ Everett Aaker, The Films of George Raft, McFarland & Company, 2013 p 184-188
  17. ^ A.M. Sperber & Eric Lax, Bogart, Pheonix 1998
  18. ^ PROJECTION JOTTINGS New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 19 Feb 1933: X5.
  19. ^ Joan Bennett Set for 'Man in Iron Mask': Brent Plays Minister Atwill in 'The Gorilla' New Television Plans New Raft Controversy Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Jan 1939: 10.

Further reading

  • Beaver, Jim. George Raft. Films in Review, April, 1978.
  • Lewis, Brad. Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster. The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen. Enigma Books: New York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-929631-65-0.
  • Parish, James Robert. The George Raft File: The Unauthorized Biography. New York: Drake Publishers, 1973. ISBN 0-87749-520-3.
  • Wallace, Stone. George Raft-The Man Who Would Be Bogart. Albany: BearManor Media, 2008. ISBN 1-59393-123-9.
  • Yablonsky, Lewis. George Raft. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974. ISBN 0-07-072235-8.


                                               *                             *                               *


George Raft was a star, but his fortunes declined as those of Carole Lombard ascended. Likewise he would eventually be passed up in popularity by onetime costar Humphrey Bogart. In private life, his name was linked to a number of glamour girls, and it was he who was responsible for the entrance of Mae West into the movies.

He was also associated with members of the underworld, which seems to have been part of the basis of his appeal. In later years his underworld cronies would employ him at gambling casinos when he was free of other commitments ( unemployed ).

The name of George Raft is not infrequently mentioned in connection with Pat DiCicco, who was at one time married to Thelma Todd.



I have the good fortune of being the friend of Quinn O'Hara on facebook, and she happened to tell me a little about her experiences with George Raft, having met him on one occasion some years ago.


Quinn O'Hara:

"This is from my memoirs
So I went to Brad’s place not too far away. It was one of the flats rented by the film company. He took me to The Colony Club. Which a very chic gambling club. George Raft is there every night as sort of an attraction due to his bad guy image. It was really neat. I met him. We got to talking and I told him of the odd arrangement I had with the apartment and he said to me “Anytime in the future you need to be out just call me and I’ll have my chauffeur pick you up” I thanked him . It was great to know I had a place for the nights should the case arise. We had really hit is off. I told him how much I had loved the film “Bolero” I had seen it on TV late at night a while back and how that was my very favorite piece of music. I thought the dance he did with Carole Lombard was the outstanding. I also commented how I thought it was probably considered very racy for that time in movies. It is fantastic and a great movie. George Raft of course known for his “bad guy’ roles” is such a great dancer . Who Knew? ‘I still love to watch them dance anytime on youtube too. So in case you want to see George Raft and Carole Lombard “Bolero” just check it out on youtube. I love that I can see it anytime. The whole movie” Bolero” is great too."




                                                 SCARFACE ( 1932 ) with Ann Dvorak.


Fans of classic comedies may remember Ann Dvorak dancing in the 1930 Buster Keaton film FREE AND EASY.



         NIGHT AFTER NIGHT ( 1932 )
 Mae West's entrance into films was due to George Raft.


Raol Walsh, Mae West, Walter Wanger, and George Raft

 


THE BOWERY ( 1933 )


 
With Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery
 
 
Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery with Pert Kelton, 
 
 who later would work with Patsy Kelly in place of Thelma Todd at the Roach studio.
 
 
 
Mexican poster shows Pert Kelton at top with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery, at right with
 
 
George Raft, and at bottom left with dancers. George Raft at top left appears to be fighting with a Mexican masked wrestler.
 
 
 
BOLERO ( 1934 ) with Carole Lombard and George Raft.
 
 
 
 
Their famous dance scene was a highlight of the film
 

Their famous dance scene was a highlight of the film
.


                                                       George Raft and Carole Lombard

 
 
 
 
 
Lucille Ball, George Raft, Virginia Pine (and her daughter Joanie) and Mack Gray (April 25, 1935)
 
Pat DiCicco was also associated with Lucille Ball.
 
 
 
With Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT ( 1940 ) 
 
 
 
 
 
With Ida Lupino in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.
 
 
This story involves Ida Lupino's character killing her husband with carbon monoxide* in order to be free to marry George Raft. When she learns of his plans to marry Ann Sheridan, she tries to put the blame on him. The trial ends with her going insane on the witness stand and confessing to her own guilt, clearing Raft.
 
 
 
 Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft
 
 
They were all stars at Warner Brothers, but Bogart is the most popular today.
 
 
 
 With Bing Crosby at the races.
 
 
Like some other movie stars, Bing Crosby lost a lot of money on horses. Although he owned some of them.
 
 
 
 With Hollywood gangster Bugsy Siegel,
 
 
 who like Raft had connections with the New York underworld.
 
 
 
With Betty Grable
 
 
 
 
With Betty Grable and other movie stars.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The character played by Jayne Mansfield in THE GEORGE RAFT STORY was supposed to be Betty Grable.
  
 
 
 
 
THE GEORGE RAFT STORY
 
 
 
 
George Raft with Julie London on the set of THE GEORGE RAFT STORY. 
 
 
 
 
 
With Margo Moore, Ray Danton, Barrie Chase, and Julie London 
 
 
 
 
With Julie London, Barrie Chase, Margo Moore, and Ray Danton. 

 
 
 
With Julie London, Barrie Chase, Margo Moore, and Cecile Rogers.
 
 
 
 
 
And with Mae West again years after NIGHT AFTER NIGHT.
 




*This business was lifted from the 1935 movie BORDERTOWN, which starred Bette Davis and Margaret Lindsay. Some people wondered if the death of Thelma Todd could have been a "copycat murder" inspired by this movie. By coincidence, the same Margaret Lindsay was one of the last people to see Thelma Todd alive, at the Trocadero. Ida Lupino was there, too.



Watch George Raft and Carole Lombard's dance scene in BOLERO





THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Drive_by_Night

Texas Guinan:
http://texasguinan.blogspot.com/
 

George Raft:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0706368/?ref_=tt_ov_st

http://jake-weird.blogspot.com/2012/10/george-raft-film-gangster.html

http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.com/2010/10/george-raft-1895-1980.html


How George Raft Made Humphrey Bogart A Star:
http://bogart-tribute.net/fan/byrne3.shtml

THE GEORGE RAFT STORY:
http://www.julielondon.org/J/The_George_Raft_Story.html


Raol Walsh:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Walsh


Mae West and George Raft:
http://maewest.blogspot.com/2008/09/mae-west-george-raft.html




A

1 comment:

  1. He was such a gentleman. I was so impressed with his dancing abilities I told him so when I had the opportunity in London. where I had chance to spend a few hours with him . He was like the main attraction for the Colony Club a classy gambling establishment. - Quinn O'Hara

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