George Raft


Actor
George Raft

About

Also Known As
George Ranft
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
September 26, 1895
Died
November 24, 1980

Biography

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, "Sc...

Photos & Videos

Manpower - Publicity Stills
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Grace Raft
Wife
Married from 1927 until her death in 1970.
Lila Chevret
Companion
Actor. Romantically involved in the 1930s.
Norma Shearer
Companion
Actor. Had relationship c. 1940; could not obtain divorce from wife.

Biography

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.

Born on Sept. 26, 1895 in New York, NY, Raft was raised in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen by his German immigrant parents, Eva and Conrad Raft. Growing up in a rough part of town, Raft was naturally close to criminal elements and was the boyhood friend of Owney Madden, who later ran the famed Cotton Club in Harlem. In the early 1920s, Raft showed an aptitude for dance and began working in a number of nightclubs, leading to a deepening association with various gangsters. He eventually worked with Madden as a gun thug and wheelman on bootleg runs, but continued to dance and dream of becoming a big star. In 1929, with Madden's encouragement, Raft basically played himself in the crime drama, "Queen of the Nightclubs" (1929), which focused on a fictionalized account of a speakeasy owner (Texas Guinan) dealing with the murder of a close friend (John Davidson). Raft was given a small role where he showed off his moves in a fast-paced Charleston dance solo, which had first brought him fame on the Broadway stage back in New York.

In the early part of his film career, Raft had small parts in films like "Quick Millions" (1931) starring Spencer Tracy, "Palmy Days" (1931) with Eddie Cantor, and "Winner Take All" (1932) starring James Cagney. After being punched out by Cagney during a dance competition in Roy Del Ruth's "Taxi!" (1932), Raft was propelled to stardom as the coin-flipping killer who serves as a henchman to psychotic gang boss Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) in Howard Hawks' violent gangland classic, "Scarface" (1932). So convincing was his performance that audiences thought Raft was a real-life mobster, which in reality was not too far removed from the truth. In fact, Raft remained connected to the East Coast mob and often carried out favors for them, including breaking off a relationship between a gangster's moll and famed lothario Gary Cooper. Meanwhile, Raft ran into his own trouble with women after having married Grayce Mulrooney, a woman several years his senior, in 1927. Though they separated soon after, Mulrooney refused to grant him a divorce due to her devout adherence to Catholicism and the two stayed married until her death in 1970. Still, Raft maintained a number of romances with the likes of Betty Grable, Lila Chevret, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West.

Meanwhile, Raft played variations of tough guys throughout the 1930s in "Night After Night" (1932) opposite Mae West, William Wellman's "Love is a Racket" (1932) and the multi-director anthology "If I Had a Million" (1932), where he played a Death Row inmate who is one of the lucky recipients of an inheritance from a wealthy businessman (Richard Bennett). From there, he was second billed as Steve Brodie, the first man to ever jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and live - or so he claimed - in Raoul Walsh's historical drama "The Bowery" (1933). He followed with turns as an undercover agent who infiltrates a gang of jewel thieves in "Midnight Club" (1933), a Mexican matador in "The Trumpet Blows" (1934) and a nightclub dancer who falls for his partner (Carole Lombard) in the musical drama "Bolero" (1934). After starring opposite Anna May Wong in "Limehouse Blues" (1934), Raft was the former strongman for a crooked politician who tries to solve a strange murder while being pulled into a deadly game of corruption in "The Glass Key" (1935), which was adapted from a story by Dashiell Hammett.

Raft continued his rise to stardom with supporting roles in Henry Hathaway's "Souls at Sea" (1937) and Fritz Lang's underrated film noir "You and Me" (1938), as well as leading roles in "Spawn of the North" (1938), an adventure on the high seas co-starring Henry Fonda and Dorothy Lamour. After "The Lady's from Kentucky" (1939) and "I Stole a Million" (1939), Raft reached the height of his career with a supporting turn opposite James Cagney as a hardened con in "Each Dawn I Die" (1939). He next starred in the excellent melodrama "They Drive by Night" (1940), playing the owner of a trucking firm battling all manner of crooks and unscrupulous rivals, only to suffer tragedy when his brother (Humphrey Bogart) crashes a truck and loses an arm. The high-action drama offered Raft one of his career's best roles and set him up for even greater things to come. But instead of capitalizing, Raft's career hit the skids after famously turning down the roles of Mad Dog Earle in "High Sierra" (1941) and Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), both which were played by Bogart and turned him into a star. Around this time, he was involved in a serious affair with actress Norma Shearer, whom he wanted to marry but was unable to because of his wife's continued refusal to grant a divorce. Ultimately, his inability to divorce lead to the end of his romance with Shearer, as it had Grable before her.

Instead, Raft starred opposite Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich in Raoul Walsh's rather uninspiring melodrama "Manpower" (1941), which at the time looked like the right project for the actor to take on. From there, he starred in the prohibition-era musical "Broadway" (1942) and played an undercover American agent in Turkey in the espionage thriller, "Background to Danger" (1943), which was made to capitalize on the success of "Casablanca" (1942). Following that film, Raft demanded that Warner Bros. head Jack Warner terminate his contract. Warner intended to buy Raft out for $10,000, but the actor instead paid him the ten grand - a misunderstanding of terms that helped give rise to rumors that Raft was illiterate, a charge that dogged him throughout his career and seemed supported by talk that he had scripts read to him in order to learn his lines. Meanwhile, Raft was the star of movies of ever-diminishing quality for the remainder of the 1940s like the comedy "Follow the Boys" (1944), "Johnny Angel" (1945), "Whistle Stop" (1946), "Intrigue" (1947), "Race Street" (1948), and "Outpost in Morocco" (1949), which promised international intrigue but failed to deliver.

Over the course of the next decade, Raft saw his stardom slowly dwindle until losing his status as a box office draw by the 1950s. During much of the decade, Raft worked as a glorified greeter at the Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba, which he partially owned with notorious crime heads Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante. Of course, Raft continued to act whenever he could, starring in forgettable B-movies like "Man Bait" (1952) and "Loan Shark" (1952). Raft was one of the first major film stars to transition to television with the leading role on "I'm the Law" (syndicated, 1953), where he played a NYPD detective solving a variety of crimes. The show was canceled after its first season. After starring in forgotten noirs like "I'll Get You" (1953) and "The Man from Cairo" (1954), he had supporting parts in "Rogue Cop" (1954) starring Robert Taylor and Janet Leigh, and the entertaining noir mystery "Black Widow" (1954) with Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin and Gene Tierney. Raft hit his nadir with "A Bullet for Joey" (1955), a one-dimensional, anti-Communist spy thriller that tapped into the fear of the McCarthy Era in this rather ridiculously plotted tale.

Raft tried to increase his standing with a cameo in the popular "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) and Billy Wilder's classic "Some Like It Hot" (1959), where he spoofed his gangster image as "Spats" Colombo, but failed on both accounts to spark a comeback. He had a cameo as a casino owner in the Rat Pack vehicle "Ocean's 11" (1960) and another one in the Jerry Lewis comedy "The Ladies Man" (1961). Meanwhile, "The George Raft Story" (1961) was released, which starred Ray Danton as Raft in this fictionalized version of his life, with a heavy focus on his life among gangsters. Naturally, the actor denounced the film for its alleged inaccuracies. He continued making small appearances in "The Patsy" (1964), "Five Golden Dragons" (1967), and "Casino Royale" (1967), where he was given top billing in the film's promotion despite only appearing for a few minutes at the end of the movie. In 1965, Raft ran into personal problems after being convicted of tax evasion, though he managed to avoid prison time by openly weeping before the judge. He appeared in only a handful of films over the next 15 years, playing small parts in forgettable titles like "Madigan's Millions" (1968), "Hammersmith is Out" (1972), the woeful musical farce "Sextette" (1978) which starred an undignified Mae West, and "The Man with Bogart's Face" (1980). Raft died of leukemia in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 1980 at 79 years old.

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
Deadhead Miles (1982)
The Man with Bogart's Face (1980)
Sextette (1978)
Himself
Hammersmith Is Out (1972)
Guido Scartucci
Madigan's Millions (1969)
Skidoo (1968)
Captain Garbaldo
The Upper Hand (1967)
Charles Binaggio
Casino Royale (1967)
Himself
For Those Who Think Young (1964)
The Patsy (1964)
The Ladies' Man (1961)
Himself
Ocean's Eleven (1960)
Jack Strager
Some Like It Hot (1959)
"Spats" Colombo
Jet over the Atlantic (1959)
Stafford
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Bouncer at Barbary Coast saloon
A Bullet for Joey (1955)
Joe Victor, also known as Earl Steiner
Rogue Cop (1954)
Dan Beaumonte
Black Widow (1954)
Lt. Detective Bruce
I'll Get You (1953)
Steven Rossi
The Man from Cairo (1953)
Mike Canelli
Loan Shark (1952)
Joe Gargen
Lucky Nick Cain (1951)
Nick Cain
Red Light (1949)
John Torno
A Dangerous Profession (1949)
Vince Kane
Johnny Allegro (1949)
Johnny Allegro
Outpost in Morocco (1949)
Capt. Paul Gerard
Race Street (1948)
[Dan] Gannin
Christmas Eve (1947)
Mario Torio
Intrigue (1947)
Brad Dunham
Nocturne (1946)
[Lieutenant] Joe Warne
Mr. Ace (1946)
Eddie Ace
Whistle Stop (1946)
Kenny Veech
Johnny Angel (1945)
Johnny Angel
Nob Hill (1945)
Tony Angelo
Follow the Boys (1944)
Tony West
Background to Danger (1943)
Joe Barton
Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Broadway (1942)
George Raft
Manpower (1941)
Johnny Marshall
They Drive by Night (1940)
Joe Fabrini
The House Across the Bay (1940)
Steve [Larwitt]
Each Dawn I Die (1939)
"Hood" Stacey
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Cliff Taylor
The Lady's from Kentucky (1939)
Marty Black
I Stole a Million (1939)
Joe Lourik
You and Me (1938)
Joe Dennis
Spawn of the North (1938)
Tyler Dawson
Souls at Sea (1937)
Powdah
It Had to Happen (1936)
Enrico Scaffa
Yours for the Asking (1936)
Johnny Lamb
The Glass Key (1935)
Editor Beaumont
Every Night at Eight (1935)
"Tops" Cardona
She Couldn't Take It (1935)
[Spot] Ricardi [also known as Joe Ricard]
Stolen Harmony (1935)
Ray Angelo [previously known as] Ray Farraro
Rumba (1935)
Joe Martin
The Trumpet Blows (1934)
Manuel Montes
Bolero (1934)
Raoul [De Baere]
Limehouse Blues (1934)
Harry Young
All of Me (1934)
Honey Rogers
Pick-Up (1933)
Harry Glynn
The Bowery (1933)
Steve Brody
Midnight Club (1933)
Nick Mason
Night World (1932)
Editor Powell
Scarface (1932)
[Guino] Rinaldo
Dancers in the Dark (1932)
Louie
Under-Cover Man (1932)
Nick Darrow
Night After Night (1932)
Joe Anton
Madame Racketeer (1932)
Jack Houston
If I Had a Million (1932)
Edward Jackson
Love Is a Racket (1932)
Stinky
Taxi! (1932)
Dance contestant
Goldie (1931)
Man in crowd at carnival
Quick Millions (1931)
Jimmy Kirk
Hush Money (1931)
Maxie
Palmy Days (1931)
Joe-the-Frog
Queen of the Night Clubs (1929)
Gigola

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other

Cast (Short)

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (1940)
Himself

Life Events

1961

Portrayed by Ray Danton in the biopic, "The George Raft Story"

1992

Portrayed by Joe Mantegna in the Barry Levinson biopic, "Bugsy"

Photo Collections

Manpower - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills taken for Warner Bros' Manpower (1941), starring Edward G. Robinson, Marlene Dietrich, and George Raft. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Jumbo Lobby Cards
Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Souls at Sea - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
They Drive by Night - Movie Posters
Here are a few American movie posters for They Drive by Night (1940). Pictured are the 1940 1-sheet, a re-issue 1-sheet, and an original lobby card.
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters
Souls at Sea - Movie Posters
You and Me - Movie Posters
You and Me - Movie Posters
You and Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
You and Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
You and Me - Lobby Cards
You and Me - Lobby Cards
Christmas Eve - Movie Poster
Christmas Eve - Movie Poster
Each Dawn I Die - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Each Dawn I Die (1939). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
A Dangerous Profession - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from RKO's A Dangerous Profession (1949), starring George Raft and Pat O'Brien. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
They Drive by Night - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Warner Bros' They Drive by Night (1940), starring George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, and Ida Lupino. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The House Across the Bay - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from Walter Wanger's The House Across the Bay (1940), starring George Raft, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Nolan, and Walter Pidgeon.
The House Across the Bay - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The House Across the Bay (1940), starring George Raft and Joan Bennett. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The House Across the Bay - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Walter Wanger's The House Across the Bay (1940), starring George Raft and Joan Bennett. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Rogue Cop - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's Rogue Cop (1954), starring Robert Taylor, Janet Leigh, George Raft, and Anne Francis. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
George Raft - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actor George Raft. These cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 1930s and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.

Videos

Movie Clip

Race Street (1948) - Don't Bet On Horses Following opening narration, entering the horse gambling racket in San Francisco, introducing bookie Hal (Henry Morgan), then his friend and backer, the star, George Raft, as "Dan." who has a fancy girlfriend "Robbie," (Marilyn Maxwell), from Race Street, 1948.
Race Street (1948) - Don't Give Me Orders At a Chicago racket hangout, high rolling bookie Dan (George Raft) is visited by cop Barney (William Bendix), who pushes him not to seek his own vengeance for the murder of their mutual childhood friend, in Race Street, 1948.
Race Street (1948) - I'm In A Jam With Baby Splashy introduction for Gale Robbins as Elaine, night club singer and sister of the owner Dan (George Raft), her own vocal on a tune by Ray Heindorf, M.K. Jerome and Ted Koehler, fancy shot by director Edwin L. Marin and cinematographer J. Roy Hunt, in Race Street, 1948.
Scarface (1932) - Where's Camonte? Buddy Rinaldo (George Raft) on sort-of lookout duty in the barber shop, when the chief detective (Edwin Maxwell) intrudes, and Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) unveils himself, early in Howard Hawks' Scarface, 1932.
Scarface (1932) - I Don't Hear So Good Tony (Paul Muni) is romancing Poppy (Karen Morley), then thrilled by a drive-by shooting, then off with pals (George Raft, Vince Barnett) to visit boss Johnny (Osgood Perkins), director Howard Hawks gunning it, in Scarface, 1932.
Scarface (1932) - You Just Spend It Rising gangster Tony (Paul Muni) at home with mother (Inez Palange) then expressing perhaps unhealthy interest in his sister Cesca (Ann Dvorak), pal Rinaldo (George Raft) observing, in Howard Hawks' Scarface, 1932.
Scarface (1932) - The World Is Yours Thugs Rinaldo (George Raft) and Angelo (Vince Barnett) splitting as Tony (Paul Muni), who's just rubbed out another rival, welcomes their bosses' girlfriend Poppy (Karen Morley), in Howard Hawks' Scarface, 1932.
Nocturne (1946) - This Is A Dancing School Location shooting at the Pantages in Hollywood, George Raft as detective Joe tracking a witness braces a ticket taker and a manager (Gladys Blake, Sam Flint) then a little gag, as the accomplished hoofer visits a dance school, learning from Janet Shaw, in RKO’s Nocturne, 1946.
Nocturne (1946) - I Have Been Avoiding You Abundant style in the opening,as composer Keith Vincent (Edward Ashley), whom they’re playing for, maybe, a callous Cole Porter, performs for, he says, “Dolores,” though she’s never revealed, in Nocturne, 1946, directed by Edwin L. Marin, starring George Raft and Lynn Bari.
Nocturne (1946) - Q.E.D. Suicide Introducing players investigating the murder scene, with William Challee the camera, Harry Harvey the doc, Walter Sande the head cop but mainly George Raft as detective Joe Warne, then Virginia Huston in her first credited part, all brass as Carol, the mighty good-looking maid, in Nocturne, 1946.
Nocturne (1946) - I Don't Like Those Kind Of Pictures Following leads toward the murdered guy’s girlfriends, George Raft as detective Joe meets a peeved photographer (John Banner, a.k.a. Sergeant Schultz from TV’s Hogan’s Heroes!) Virginia Kelley his model, then finally co-top-billed Lynn Bari as Frances, Robert Andersen her boy-toy, in Nocturne, 1946.
Background To Danger (1943) - An American Word? Nicolai (Peter Lorre), with his more fetching sister Tamara (Brenda Marshall), first secretly dispatches Ivor (Daniel Ocko), then reveals to American Joe (George Raft) why he rescued him from a crew of bogus Turkish cops, in Background To Danger, 1943, from an Eric Ambler novel.

Trailer

Scarface (1932) - (1979 Re-issue Trailer) Al Pacino got nothin' on Paul Muni, see, as the original Scarface (1932) directed by Howard Hawks, produced by Howard Hughes.
Dangerous Profession, A - (Original Trailer) A bail bondsman (George Raft) is asked to raise money to free his ex-girlfriend's husband. It's A Dangerous Profession (1949).
Johnny Allegro - (Original Trailer) A reformed hoodlum (George Raft) gets mixed up with counterfeiters and a deadly manhunt in Johnny Allegro (1949).
Background to Danger - (Original Trailer) George Raft falls headlong into espionage in wartime Turkey in Raoul Walsh's Background To Danger (1943).
Ladies Man, The - (Original Trailer) Jerry Lewis is a houseboy who creates chaos at a Hollywood hotel for aspiring actresses in The Ladies Man (1961).
They Drive By Night - (Re-issue trailer) Truck-driving brothers are framed for murder by a psychotic woman in They Drive By Night (1940), starring George Raft & Humphrey Bogart.
Black Widow (1954) - (Original Trailer) A young stage hopeful (Peggy Ann Gardner), is murdered and suspicion falls on her mentor, a Broadway producer (Van Heflin) in Black Widow (1954).
Casino Royale (1967) - (Pan-and-scan Trailer) The first movie version of the first James Bond novel Casino Royale (1967) was this wild 60's farce with 16 stars and 6 directors.
Rogue Cop - (Original Trailer) Robert Taylor got his first bad-guy role in Rogue Cop (1954) as a corrupt policeman whose brother is targeted by the mob.
Invisible Stripes - (Original Trailer) Humphrey Bogart is the gang boss, William Holden the kid heading for a life of crime and George Raft the ex-con who can't get a job.
Love is a Racket - (Original Trailer) A Broadway columnist covers up a murder while uncovering scandal in William Wellman's pre-code drama, Love Is A Racket (1932).
Around the World in 80 Days - (Wide Release Trailer) A Victorian gentleman (David Niven) bets that he can beat the world's record for circling the globe in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).

Companions

Grace Raft
Wife
Married from 1927 until her death in 1970.
Lila Chevret
Companion
Actor. Romantically involved in the 1930s.
Norma Shearer
Companion
Actor. Had relationship c. 1940; could not obtain divorce from wife.

Bibliography