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George Raft – MovieActors.com

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George Raft in SCARFACE (1932).

About George Raft (1901 – 1980)

George Raft was born on September 26, 1901, to poor Jewish German immigrants, in Hell's Kitchen section of New York City. Hell's Kitchen had a notorious reputation of being the roughest and meanest section of New York City. His father, Conrad Ranft, was born in America into a family of German immigrants. His mother, Eva Klockner immigrated with her family. George Raft spoke German fluently.

George Raft was the eldest of ten children, nine of whom were boys. He had an older sister, as well, but she died in infancy.

George Raft often played a gangster or convict, having been immersed in this counter culture, that surrounded him in his neighborhood. This was a type-cast that suited him well.

George didn't think much of his natural acting ability, as he had no formal training. In an interview, George shared about his thoughts on acting. "I'm afraid to look, because I'm probably awful. You see, I found it tough work. What I would do would be to think over the scene in my mind and try to become whoever I was playing. I would try to feel like the person in that particular scene."

I guess George Raft would be considered a method actor, fitting right into the thespians from Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio.

The believability with which George played these kind of roles, together with his lifelong associations with many real-life gangsters that he knew from childhood; {growing up with Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel}, added rumors that Raft also was a gangster.

Though George never was a gangster, he admitted that he narrowly escaped this life of crime. George knew right from wrong, and was determined to use his skills to create a better life for himself.

What gave George an out of this environment all around him was his determination, great ability to dance, and his innate fashion sense; always impeccably well-dressed and debonair. Among other dancing moves, George excelled at doing a very fast Charleston, admired by Fred Estaire. George was able to get hired as a dancer in New York City nightclubs, and speakeasies. He made the next step and became a dancer in Broadway shows.

In 1923, George married Grace Mulrooney, a Catholic woman; an event that turned out to be a big mistake, from early on in their marriage. They separated, but she wouldn't grant him a divorce, because of her faith. George had affairs, but always supported her until she died in 1970. His lost love of his life was actress Norma Shearer, but she let him go when Grace refused to divorce George.

In 1929, George Raft packed his bags and sought his fortune in Hollywood. George started with small parts in films. His first role was in a James Cagney movie, TAXI;(1932), where he played a rival dancer in a dancing competition with the character played by James Cagney. Loretta Young was Cagney's love interest.

The 1932 film, SCARFACE, was George Raft's first big role as the coin-tossing henchman, having the real life expertise experience of being around gangsters in his old neighborhood.

While having a shady reputation at first helped him during his early career in the 1930s' and '40s', movie moguls were leary of him as time went on. In 1966 Britain jumped on the band wagon and banned George Raft from entering Britain because of his Mafia connections;{ just knowing gangsters I guess made him guilty by association}. This happened during a time when Britain was having its own issues with organized crime in London.

George Raft used his mob connections for good purposes. He became a mentor to young men in his old neighborhood, as well as the gangsters, who wanted to be like him in manner and style. Most importantly, he saved the lives of both James Cagney and Gary Cooper when they got into trouble with the mob.

Cagney was President of the Screen Actor's Guild, and was doing his best to keep the Mafia out of the movie business. Gary made the mistake of romanicing a gangster's girlfriend.

George still managed to find work though, being a resourceful fellow. Independent film makers, television, and other show business entities had no qualms at all. Though he never regained his stardom, he did work steadily playing supportive characters of varying importance.

George played himself in ten films: BROADWAY, STAGE DOOR, CANTEEN, WE WILL ALL GO TO PARIS, THE LADIES MAN, THE PATSY, CASINO ROYALE, SILENT TREATMENT, THE GREAT SEX WAR, DEADHEAD MILES, AND SEXTETTE.

George was the second actor to portray the title role for CBS Radio's THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY JORDAN (1951-1953).

George found work on television. In the 1950s, George Raft had a self-owned, syndicated TV series, I AM THE LAW;(1953). He made appearances on THE RED SKELTON HOUR TV series;(1955-1960). He also made guest appearances on shows like BATMAN.

In 1982, in the made for TV movie MAE WEST, George Raft was portrayed by Nicholas Mayer.

Being from a poor family, and not having much education about managing his finances, George ran into some economic difficulties. In an interview, George explained his mistakes. "I must have gone through $10 million during my career. Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly."

During George Raft's period of financial duress, he sold movie rights to his life, which was filmed as THE GEORGE RAFT STORY; (1961), with Ray Danton in the title role. In 1982, in the made for TV movie MAE WEST, George Raft was portrayed by Nicholas Mayer. Raft was played on-screen by Joe Mantegna in Barry Levinson's BUGSY; (1991).

On February 8th, 1960, George Raft won two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for movies: 6159 Hollywood Blvd, and one for television:1500 Vine Street.

On November 24, 1980, George Raft passed away in Los Angeles, California, from leukemia, at the age of 79. Raft died two days after his NIGHT AFTER NIGHT and SEXTETTE co-star Mae West.

George Raft's notable movie credits include...

THE MAN WITH BOGART'S FACE (1980)
SEXTETTE (1978)
DEADHEAD MILES (1973)
HAMMERSMITH IS OUT (1972)
SILENT TREATMENT (1968)
SKIDOO (1968)
FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (1967)
THE UPPER HAND (1966)
THE PATSY (1964)
TWO GUYS ABROAD (1962)
OCEAN'S ELEVEN (1960)
JET OVER THE ATLANTIC (1959)
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956)
A BULLET FOR JOEY (1955)
BLACK WIDOW (1954)
ROGUE COP (1954)
THE MAN FROM CAIRO (1953)
I'LL GET YOU (1952)
LOAN SHARK (1952)
LUCKY NICK CAIN (1951)
WE WILL ALL GO TO PARIS (1950)
A DANGEROUS PROFESSION (1949)
RED LIGHT (1949)
JOHNNY ALLEGRO (1949)
OUTPOST IN MOROCCO (1949)
RACE STREET (1948)
INTRIGUE (1947)
CHRISTMAS EVE (1947)
NOCTURNE (1946)
MR. ACE (1946)
WHISTLE STOP (1946)
JOHNNY ANGEL (1945)
NOB HILL (1945)
FOLLOW THE BOYS (1944)
BACKGROUND TO DANGER (1943)
STAGE DOOR CANTEEN (1943)
BROADWAY (1942)
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940)
THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY (1940)
INVISIBLE STRIPES (1939)
I STOLE A MILLION (1939)
EACH DAWN I DIE (1939)
THE LADY'S FROM KENTUCKY (1939)
SPAWN OF THE NORTH (1938)
YOU AND ME (1938)
SOULS AT SEA (1937)
YOURS FOR THE ASKING (1936)
IT HAD TO HAPPEN (1936)
SHE COULDN'T TAKE IT (1935)
EVERY NIGHT AT EIGHT (1935)
THE GLASS KEY (1935)
STOLEN HARMONY (1935)
RUMBA (1935)
LIMEHOUSE BLUES (1934)
BOLERO (1934)
ALL OF ME (1934)
THE BOWERY (1933)
MIDNIGHT CLUB (1933)
PICK-UP (1933)
UNDER-COVER MAN (1932)
IF I HAD A MILLION (1932)
NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932)
NIGHT WORLD (1932)
SCARFACE (1932)
PALMY DAYS (1931)
HUSH MONEY (1931)
QUICK MILLIONS (1931)
SIDE STREET ( UNCREDITED DANCER) (1929)
GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (UNCREDITED DANCER) (1929)
QUEEN OF THE NIGHT CLUBS (1929)


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George Raft in SCARFACE (1932).

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George Raft in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940).