George Raft

George Raft

Infobox actor
bgcolour = silver
name = George Raft

imagesize = 200px
caption = from "Invisible Stripes" (1939)
birthdate = birth date|1895|9|26|mf=y
location = New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1980|11|24|1895|9|26|mf=y
deathplace = Los Angeles, California
birthname = George Ranft
yearsactive = 1929 - 1980

George Raft (26 September 1895 [Raft was born in 1895, according to the 1910 U.S. Census. At] – 24 November 1980) was an American film actor most closely identified with his portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s.


Early life

Raft was born George Ranft (according to the 1910 census) in Hell's Kitchen, New York City to German immigrant Conrad Ranft and his wife Eva Glockner. Raft quickly adopted the "tough guy" persona that he would later use in his films. [ [] "Raft was born George Ranft in Hell's Kitchen, New York City to Conrad Ranft (a German immigrant). He quickly adopted the "tough guy" persona that he would later use in his films. "]


Initially interested in dancing, as a young man he showed great aptitude, and this, combined with his elegant fashion sense, allowed him to work as a dancer in some of New York City's most fashionable nightclubs. He became part of the stage act of Texas Guinan and his success led him to Broadway where he again worked as a dancer. He worked in London as a chorus boy at some time in the early 20s.

Vi Kearney, later to be a star dancer in shows for Charles Cochran and Andre 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."

In the early 1930s Tallulah Bankhead nearly died following a 5-hour hysterectomy for an advanced case of gonorrhea she claimed she got from Raft. Only 70 pounds when she was able to leave the hospital, she stoically said to her doctor, "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!"

In 1929 Raft moved to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in "Scarface" (1932), and Raft's convincing portrayal led to speculation that Raft himself was a gangster. He was a close friend of several top organized crime figures, including Bugsy Siegel, Owney Madden and Siegel's suspected killer, Meyer Lansky. Raft was considered one of Hollywood's most dapper and stylish dressers and he achieved a level of celebrity not entirely commensurate with the quality or popularity of his films; Raft became a pop culture icon in the 1930s matched by few other film stars.

He was definitely one of the three most popular gangster actors of the 1930s, along with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson (Humphrey Bogart never matched Raft's stardom during that decade). Raft and Cagney worked together in "Each Dawn I Die" (1939) as fellow convicts in prison. His 1932 film "Night After Night" launched the movie career of Mae West with a supporting part as well as providing Raft's first leading role (Raft and West would die within two days of each other 48 years later and their corpses would wind up in the same morgue at the same time.) Raft appeared the following year in Raoul Walsh's turn of the century period piece "The Bowery" as Steve Brodie, the first man to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive, with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray, and Pert Kelton.

Some of his other popular films include "If I Had A Million" (1932), in which he played a forger hiding from police, suddenly given a million dollars with no place to cash the check, "Bolero" (1934; a rare role as a dancer rather than a gangster), Dashiell Hammett's "The Glass Key" (1935) (remade in 1942 with Alan Ladd in Raft's role), "Souls at Sea" (1937) with Gary Cooper, two with Humphrey Bogart: "Invisible Stripes" (1939) and "They Drive by Night" (1940), each with Bogart in supporting roles, and "Manpower" (1941) with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich (the memorable posters said, "Robinson - He's mad about Dietrich. Dietrich - She's mad about Raft. Raft - He's mad about the whole thing"). Although Raft received third billing in "Manpower", he actually played the film's lead.

1940-41 proved to be Raft's career height. He went into a period of decline over the next decade and achieved an unenviable place in Hollywood folklore as the actor who turned down some of the best roles in screen history, most notably "High Sierra" (he supposedly didn't want to die at the end) and "The Maltese Falcon" (he didn't want to remake the superb 1931 pre-code version of "The Maltese Falcon" with a rookie director); both roles transformed Humphrey Bogart from a supporting player into a major force in Hollywood in 1941. Raft was also reported to have turned down Bogart's role in "Casablanca" (1942), although this story is probably apocryphal.

Approached by director Billy Wilder, he refused the lead role in "Double Indemnity" (1944), which led to the casting of Fred MacMurray in a towering classic that would have undoubtedly revived Raft's career. His lack of judgment (probably grounded in the fact that he was more or less illiterate, which made judging scripts even more problematic than usual), combined with the public's growing distaste for his apparent gangster lifestyle, effectively ended his career as a leading man in mainstream movies. He satirized his gangster image with a well-received performance in "Some Like it Hot" (1959), but this did not lead to a comeback (probably due to his age by that point) despite being billed fourth under Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon in a comedy classic, and he spent the remainder of the decade making films in Europe. He played a small role as a casino owner in "Ocean's Eleven" (1960) opposite the Rat Pack. His final film appearances were in "Sextette" (1978) with Mae West in an amusing cameo (West: "Why George Raft, I haven't seen you in 20 years. What have you been doing?" Raft: "Oh, about 20 years!") and "The Man with Bogart's Face" (1980).

Fred Astaire, in his autobiography "Steps in Time" (1959), mentions that Raft was a lightning-fast hoofer.


Raft died from leukemia, aged 85, in Los Angeles, California on November 24th, 1980 and was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. Only two days before, his old co-star Mae West had died. Their bodies were at the same mortuary at the same time for an eerie posthumous reunion.

Personal life

Ray Danton played Raft in "The George Raft Story" (1961).

In the 1991 biographical movie "Bugsy", the character of George Raft was played by Joe Mantegna.

George Raft has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Television at 1500 Vine St.

elected filmography

*"Queen of the Night Clubs" (1929) with Texas Guinan
*"Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929)
*"Side Street" (1929) with Tom Moore, Owen Moore, and Matt Moore (Raft unbilled dancer)
*"Quick Millions" (1931) with Spencer Tracy and Marguerite Churchill
*"Goldie" (1931) with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow
*"Hush Money" (1931) with Joan Bennett and Myrna Loy
*"Palmy Days" (1931) with Eddie Cantor
*"Scarface" (1932) with Paul Muni and Ann Dvorak (Raft flips the nickel in his breakthrough role)
*"Love Is a Racket" (1932) (scenes deleted)
*"Madame Racketeer" (1932) with Alison Skipworth and Richard Bennett
*"Night World" (1932) with Lew Ayres, Mae Clarke, and Boris Karloff
*"Dancers in the Dark" (1932) with Miriam Hopkins
*"Taxi!" (1932) with James Cagney and Loretta Young
*"Winner Take All" (1932) with James Cagney
*"Night After Night" (1932) with Mae West as a fictionalized Texas Guinan (Raft's 1st leading role)
*"Under Cover Man" (1932) with Nancy Carroll
*"If I Had a Million" (1932; Raft plays a forger who can't cash his million dollar check)
*"Pick-Up" (1933) with Sylvia Sidney
*"The Bowery" (1933) with Wallace Beery, Fay Wray, and Pert Kelton (Raft 2nd billed)
*"The Midnight Club" (1933) with Clive Brook (Raft 2nd billed)
*"The Trumpet Blows" (1934) with Adolphe Menjou
*"All of Me" (1934) with Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins (Raft 3rd billed)
*"Bolero" (1934) with Carole Lombard and Ray Milland (besides "Scarface", Raft's signature film)
*"Limehouse Blues" (1934) with Anna May Wong
*"Every Night at Eight" (1935) with Alice Faye and Frances Langford
*"The Glass Key" (1935) with Edward Arnold
*"She Couldn't Take It" (1935) with Joan Bennett
*"Stolen Harmony" (1935) with Lloyd Nolan and William Cagney
*"Rumba" (1935) with Carole Lombard
*"Yours for the Asking" (1936) with Dolores Costello and Ida Lupino
*"It Had to Happen" (1936) with Rosalind Russell
*"Souls at Sea" (1937) with Gary Cooper (Raft 2nd billed)
*"You and Me" (1938) with Sylvia Sidney (with bizarre musical interludes by Kurt Weill)
*"Spawn of the North" (1938) with Henry Fonda and John Barrymore
*"I Stole a Million" (1939) with Claire Trevor
*"The Lady's from Kentucky" (1939) with Ellen Drew
*"Each Dawn I Die" (1939) with James Cagney (Raft 2nd billed)
*"The House Across the Bay" (1940) with Joan Bennett
*"They Drive by Night" (1940) with Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, and Humphrey Bogart
*"Invisible Stripes" (1940) with William Holden and Humphrey Bogart
*"Manpower" (1941) with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich (Raft 3rd billed but played the lead)
*"Broadway" (1942) with Pat O'Brien and Broderick Crawford (Raft plays himself as a young B'way dancer)
*"Background to Danger" (1943) with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre
*"Stage Door Canteen" (1943) with an all-star cast
*"Follow the Boys" (1944) with Vera Zorina
*"Nob Hill" (1945) with Joan Bennett
*"Johnny Angel" (1945) with Claire Trevor and Hoagy Carmichael
*"Whistle Stop" (1946) with Ava Gardner and Victor McLaglen
*"Nocturne" (1946)
*"Mr. Ace" (1946) with Sylvia Sidney
*"A Dangerous Profession" (1949)
*"Red Light" (1949) with Virginia Mayo, Gene Lockhart, and Raymond Burr
*"A Dangerous Profession" (1949) with Ella Raines, Pat O'Brien, and Jim Backus
*"Rogue Cop" (1954) with Robert Taylor and Janet Leigh (Raft 3rd billed)
*"Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) with David Niven and Marlene Dietrich (Raft cameo)
*"Some Like It Hot" (1959) with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon (Raft 4th billed)
*"Ocean's Eleven" (1960) with the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop)
*"The Ladies Man" (1961) with Jerry Lewis (Raft cameo)
*"The Patsy" (1964)
*"The Upper Hand" (1966) with Jean Gabin (Raft 2nd billed)
*"Casino Royale" (1967)
*"Skidoo" (1968) with Jackie Gleason and Groucho Marx
*"Madigan's Millions" (1968) with Dustin Hoffman and Elsa Martinelli
*"Sextette" (1978) with Mae West and Timothy Dalton (Raft cameo)


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 0877495203
*Yablonsky, Lewis. "George Raft". New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974. ISBN 0070722358

External links


NAME= Raft, George
DATE OF BIRTH= 1895-9-26
PLACE OF BIRTH= New York City, New York
DATE OF DEATH= 1980-11-24
PLACE OF DEATH= Los Angeles, California

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