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|Also Known As:||George Ranft||Died:||November 24, 1980|
|Born:||September 26, 1895||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||New York City, New York, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor boxer dancer|
A former Broadway dancer who befriended a number of New York mobsters, actor George Raft developed a rather notorious stardom playing tough guys throughout the 1930s and 1940s. After gaining attention on Broadway for his unbelievably fast Charleston, Raft moved to Hollywood, where he had numerous supporting parts before landing his breakout role in Howard Hawks' infamous crime drama, "Scarface" (1932). An overnight success, he went on to appear in "The Bowery" (1933), "Bolero" (1934), "The Glass Key" (1935), "Each Dawn I Die" (1939) and the excellent melodrama "They Drive by Night" (1940). But just as he was on the cusp of true stardom, Raft famously turned down the leads in "High Sierra" (1941) and "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), both of which went to Humphrey Bogart, turning him into a major star. Raft continued to star in a number of films throughout the decade like "Background to Danger" (1943), "Johnny Angel" (1945) and "Outpost to Morocco" (1949), but each film dimmed his once bright star, along with rumors he was connected to the Mafia. By the mid-1950s, Raft was reduced to making cameos while serving as a greeter at a Cuban casino for known mobster Meyer Lansky. He attempted a comeback with a spoof on his tough guy image in "Some Like It Hot" (1959), but failed to reignite his career. Though unable to rekindle that spark from his heyday, Raft remained one of the Golden Age's more prominent performers.
albatros1 ( 2007-10-12 )
Source: Wikipedia The Internet Encyclopedia
George Raft (26 September 1895 – 24 November 1980) was an American film actor most closely identified with his portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s. Raft was born George Ranft 1902 according to census, in Washington Heights (163rd St. and Amsterdam Ave), New York City to Eva Glockner, a German immigrant, and Conrad Ranft, who was from Massachusetts. Raft 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. 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 Bugsy Siegel and Raft encouraged the publicity that stimulated his early career, and continued to work steadily. He was also a friend of Owney Madden, who he had grown up with in Hell's Kitchen. 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 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. 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, and his final film appearances were in Sextette (1978) with Mae West and The Man with Bogart's Face (1980). Fred Astaire, in his autobiography: Steps in Time, mentions that he was a lighting fast hoofer. Raft died from leukaemia, 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. 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.
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