American born George Raft started out his career as a prizefighter then transitioned into a dancer on Broadway in 1919. He left New York in 1929 and relocated in Hollywood where he got bit parts in movies during the 1930's. He was typecast in all of his early movie roles as a "Gangster" or a "Tough Guy". Apparently an easy fit for George after his rough upbringing in NY's Hells Kitchen. It's long been speculated that George had mob ties in real life but more on that a bit later.
His first notable role was in the movie "Scarface" 1932. (Yes thats right there wasn't just one "Scarface" and most likely not the one that every young man has seen about 50 times). This role started a very successful career for George during the 1930's playing Gangsters right along side James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Interestingly it was George Raft who suggested Mae West for a supporting part in her first movie "Night After Night". I'm sure Mae would have made it big anyway but Thank You George.
with Dolores Costello in "Yours For The Asking"
George starred in over 70 films during his career but the most recognized is "Some Like It Hot" thanks to a certain blonde bombshell named Marilyn Monroe. (And of course the amazing comedic talent of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis).
As far as his reputation for having "Underworld" connections goes, it didn't help that he was a long time friend of Bugsy Siegel since childhood. It's been well documented even on film that Bugsy Siegel lived at George Raft's Hollywood home when he first moved to California. (Joe Mantegna played George Raft in the movie "Bugsy" 1991). In James Cagney's autobiography he brings up the fact that the mob put out a hit on him but his co-star George Raft intervened and stopped it. (Thank You again George).
In the 1950's with George's star power fading he starred in a couple of TV shows but went on to manage a mob owned casino in Havana Cuba (He was part owner with Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante) . It was due to these ties that he was denied entry into Great Britain in 1966 (he owned a casino there). Mr. Raft married Grayce in 1920 and they separated shortly after. Grayce never allowed a divorce due to being a devout Catholic. George romanced and had love affairs with such leading ladies as Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Norma Shearer and Betty Grable.
The dapper Mr. Raft was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA. His grave site can be viewed HERE
Interesting Facts about George Raft:
He turned down parts in Casablanca, High Sierra, Double Indemnity, and The Maltese Falcon.
He died two days after Mae West's death..
Even though he separated from his wife early on he continued to support her faithfully until her death in 1970.
*All movie stills, ads, and autographs are from my personal collection.
Until next time,