George Raft

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George Raft
George Raft in Invisible Stripes trailer.jpg
George Ranft

(1901-09-26)September 26, 1901
DiedNovember 24, 1980(1980-11-24) (aged 79)
OccupationActor, dancer and producer
Years active1924–1980
Grace Mulrooney
(m. 1923; died 1970)

George Raft (born George Ranft; September 26, 1901[1][2] – November 24, 1980) was an American film actor and dancer identified with portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s. A stylish leading man in dozens of movies, Raft is remembered for his gangster roles in Quick Millions (1931) with Spencer Tracy, Scarface (1932) with Paul Muni, Each Dawn I Die (1939) with James Cagney, Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like It Hot (1959) with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, and as a dancer in Bolero (1934) with Carole Lombard and a truck driver in They Drive by Night (1940) with Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart.[3]

Raft said he never regarded himself as an actor. "I wanted to be me," he said.[4]

Early life[edit]

George Raft was born in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, to a family of German Jewish descent,[5] the son of Eva (née Glockner), a German immigrant, and Conrad Ranft, who was born in Massachusetts to German immigrant parents.[6] His parents were married on November 17, 1895 in Manhattan. Raft's older sister Eva, known as Katie, was born on April 18, 1896. Raft's grandfather had emigrated from Germany and worked on merry-go-rounds and prospected for gold. His father worked in carnivals before settling in New York.[7]

Most obituaries cited Raft's year of birth as 1895, which he stated was correct when he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show seven months prior to his death.[8] However, Raft is recorded in the New York City Birth Index as having been born on September 26, 1901 in Manhattan as "George Rauft" (although "Rauft" is likely a mistranscription of "Ranft").[9] The 1900 census for New York City lists his sister Katie as his parents' only child, with two children born and only one living.[10] In the 1910 census, he is listed as eight years old.[6][11]

Raft grew up on 41st Street and worked as an errand boy and a fishwrapper after school. His parents sent him to live at his grandparents' house on 164th Street. He left school at the age of 12, and left home at 13. He worked as an apprentice electrician for a year, then boxed professionally for two years beginning at the age of 15. As Dutch Rauft, he fought 14 bouts, with nine victories, three defeats and two draws.[12][13] Another account says that Raft fought 25 bouts and was knocked out seven times.[14]

Raft played minor-league baseball, reportedly with Springfield of the Eastern League, as a utility outfielder with pitching aspirations. However, his batting was poor and he was dropped.[15][16][17]

"I was just trying to find something that I liked that would make me a living," said Raft later. "I saw guys fighting, so I fought. I saw guys playing ball, so I played ball. Then I saw guys dancing... and getting paid for it!"[12]

Career as a dancer[edit]

Raft's mother taught him how to dance, and he danced at outdoor amusement parks and carnivals with his parents.[18] Following his baseball career, he began working as a taxi dancer in the poorer sections of New York. At first he struggled financially, but then he won a Charleston competition and was launched professionally.

Raft started performing exhibition dances in the afternoon at Healy's, Murray's, Rectors and Churchills in New York.[19] He then started working in New York City nightclubs, often in the same venues as did Rudolph Valentino before Valentino became a film actor.[20] Raft had a notable collaboration with Elsie Pilcer.[21] A May 1924 review in Variety called him "gifted."[22]

"I could have been the first X-rated dancer," he said later. "I was very erotic. I used to caress myself as I danced. I never felt I was a great dancer. I was more of a stylist, unique. I was never a Fred Astaire or a Gene Kelly, but I was sensuous."[23]

Raft went on tour as a dancer and helped popularize the tango in Paris, Vienna, Rome, London and New York.[12] He had a great success as a dancer in London in 1926, and the Duke of Windsor was "an ardent fan and supporter."[24] Fred Astaire, in his autobiography Steps in Time (1959), wrote that Raft was a lightning-fast dancer and did "the fastest Charleston I ever saw."[25] A September 1926 edition of Variety spoke of Raft's reputation as "the best Charleston dancer in New York."[26]

During this time, Raft befriended a number of gangsters, including Enoch Johnson and Larry Fay, and he would occasionally drive for Owney Madden.[27] A boyhood friend of gangster Benjamin Siegel, and later a "wheel man" for the mob, Raft acknowledged having narrowly avoided a life of crime.[28]


Raft became part of the stage act of flamboyant speakeasy and nightclub hostess Texas Guinan at the 300 Club, and he also produced some of her shows.[13]

His success led him to Broadway, where he again worked as a dancer.[12] His stage performances included The City Chap (October 1925) (with music by Jerome Kern),[29] Gay Paree, Madhattan, Palm Beach Nights (also known as No Foolin') and Padlocks of 1927 (1927). He was called "the fastest Charleston dancer."[30]

Raft later starred in the film Broadway (1942), a fictionalized account of his life when he was working the Paramount-Publix circuit and performing in stage shows that were presented before movies.[citation needed]

Los Angeles and early films[edit]

Owney Madden told Raft that he should be in motion pictures, and Raft decided to try to break into film acting after being threatened by the husband of a woman whom he had been seeing.[12][31] In 1927, Raft relocated to Hollywood, where he first danced in clubs to pay the bills.[12]

In October 1928, Raft appeared in a stage show presented by Texas Guinan called Night Club. The Los Angeles Times said Raft "scores a tremendous individual hit."[32] Variety wrote that Raft appeared at the climax when he "came to the front and did his eccentric dance routine, which he climaxed with the hottest black bottom ever. He goaled the audience, being the big punch of the show."[33]

Film debut[edit]

Raft's screen debut was in Queen of the Night Clubs starring Guinan, who insisted Raft have a small role. Although Raft's scenes were cut, a Variety review said "...a nite club scene introduces George Raft, the hot' stepper, as the m. c. and band leader, being brought down for one of his rip-snorting hoofing specialties."[34][35] Raft also appeared in stage shows supporting the film. One reviewer called him "a clever dancer".[36] Queen of the Night Clubs is considered a lost film.

Raft followed this with small roles in Gold Diggers of Broadway and Side Street. His dancing skills were noticed by director Rowland Brown, who cast him in a substantial supporting gangster role as Spencer Tracy's character's sidekick in Quick Millions (1931).[13] Raft's appearances in these films were followed by Goldie with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow, Hush Money with Joan Bennett, and the Eddie Cantor musical Palmy Days.

In Taxi! (1932), starring James Cagney and Loretta Young, Raft had a colorful unbilled dancing role as Cagney's competitor in a dance contest, who wins only to be knocked down by Cagney. He was third-billed in an extremely large role as a gangster in Dancers in the Dark (1932), below Miriam Hopkins as a dancer and Jack Oakie as a bandleader.


Raft's big break came when cast as the second lead, alongside Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, in Scarface, directed by Howard Hawks, where he played second-in-command Guino Rinaldo, who falls in love with Camonte's sister and is murdered by him. Raft's performance was notable for his character's frequently flipping a coin (a nickel) during scenes, which became an iconic trope in gangster films. While others claimed credit for this gangster mannerism, writer W.R. Burnett said it was Raft. "He realized he wasn't a good actor, which he wasn't. But he knew if he reacted to what other people said, he was effective."[37] The film was shot in September 1931, but not released by United Artists until the following year. It was a landmark hit and therefore a star-making role for Raft.

"That was the big one", he said. "People remembered me. I was getting real fan mail – by the bushel basket – and even a dumb kid from 10th Avenue could figure out how to translate that into money."[12]

After filming Scarface, he made Night World (1932), at Universal, supporting Lew Ayres, playing a gambler; and Love Is a Racket, directed by William Wellman, although all of Raft's scenes were eventually cut.


Raft signed a contract with Paramount in March 1932.[38][39] The following month he was cast in a supporting role for Madame Racketeer (1932) – contemporary reports referred to his "menacing suavity".[40] He was announced for Ladies of the Big House with Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond.[41]

Night After Night (1932)[edit]

When Scarface was released, public response was so strong that Raft was given the lead in a film based on a story by Louis Bromfeld, originally called Number 55[42] then changed to Night After Night (1932).[43] When the studio adamantly refused to hire Texas Guinan—upon whom one of the movie's characters was based—because of her age, Raft advocated another friend, Mae West, to be cast in a supporting role in his first film as leading man. Almost half a century later, Raft and West would die within two days of each other and their bodies would be momentarily placed together on stretchers in a hallway of the same morgue.

He was one of several Paramount stars who appeared in the episodic comedy/drama If I Had a Million (1932), playing a forger hiding from police, suddenly given a million dollars with no place to cash the check. Actors who also played the lead in other sections of the picture included Gary Cooper, W. C. Fields and Charles Laughton, so Raft was in extremely prestigious company. He starred in Under-Cover Man (1932) and was announced for Bodyguard, which was never made.[44] He did make Pick Up (1933). Raft told Variety at the time that:

I don't know what I do, but it's not acting. It's me. Supposing I'm supposed to hate a guy. Then I think of somebody I hate and visualize him instead of the actor. Same way when I'm supposed to be in love with the heroine. I think of a girl I could be crazy about and though I'm saying to the actress "I love you, darling", all the time I keep thinking of the other party.[45]

First suspension[edit]

Raft refused to appear in The Story of Temple Drake (1933) with Miriam Hopkins, as he did not want to play a sadist. He was replaced by Jack La Rue, who had been the original casting for Raft's role in Scarface.[46] Raft was put on suspension in February.[47]

"It's not that I mind being the guy on the wrong side of the law", he said. "But I won't take a role that's pure heel. The character has to have some ray of warmth, some redeeming quality – or it just isn't real."[12]

The film performed poorly at the box office and was seen to have hurt La Rue's career.[19] Raft was taken off suspension in April 1933.[48] He returned to Hollywood to make Midnight Club (1933), set in London.

The Bowery (1933)[edit]

Raft was borrowed by Twentieth Century Pictures, a new production company established by Darryl F. Zanuck (former head of production at Warners). He was to appear in their first film, Raoul Walsh's energetic period piece The Bowery, as Steve Brodie, supposedly the first man to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive, with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray, and Pert Kelton. Raft memorably dances into the picture in his opening scene wearing a derby. The film was highly popular.

Back at Paramount Raft supported Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins in All of Me (1934), which was not popular. Zanuck wanted him for Blood Money, but he was too busy at Paramount.[49]

Bolero (1934)[edit]

He was meant to be in It's a Pleasure to Lose, based on the life of Nick the Greek, but instead made Bolero (1934), playing a dancer opposite Carole Lombard. Raft refused to do the film until it was re-written; the studio suspended him for a time, but he eventually did it and the resulting movie was a big hit.[19][50] The New York Times said "Raft is a vivid and pictorially interesting type, rather than an actor in the technical sense, and consequently he proves unequal to the full implications of the fame-hungry dancer. The exterior attractiveness which Mr. Raft brings to the rôle gives 'Bolero' considerable color, nevertheless."[51]

In March 1934, Raft was suspended a second time for refusing the male lead in Mae West's It Ain't No Sin (later changed into Belle of the Nineties.) because his part was subordinate to West's.[52][53] In May 1934, Raft signed a new contract with Paramount to reflect his star status.[54]

Raft went into The Trumpet Blows (1934), playing a matador (an attempt to invoke Valentino's Blood and Sand); for a time he was promoted as a "second Valentino".[55] Raft walked out on the film unhappy with his role, but later came back after some rewrites were done. The film was a box office disappointment.[56]

Raft followed it with Limehouse Blues (1934; with Anna May Wong). In February 1934 Raft admitted to having been involved in three fights during his career as a dancer and actor, including one where he hit the producer of Bolero.[57] In August 1934, Raft was involved in a brawl at the Hollywood Brown Derby.[58]

At the end of 1934 Raft was listed in a survey of theatre managers as among Paramount's secondary tier of stars "if properly cast". Mae West and Bing Crosby were on top; others on Raft's level included the Marx Brothers, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, and W. C. Fields.[59]

He made Rumba (1935), a reunion with Lombard; and Stolen Harmony (1935). He was meant to make Gambler's Maxim from a story by James Edward Grant, but the film was not made.[60]

The Glass Key (1935)[edit]

He starred in a brutal and fast-paced adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (1935; remade in 1942 with Alan Ladd). He tried a comedy, Every Night at Eight (1935), and was borrowed by Columbia Pictures to appear in She Couldn't Take It (1935), a comedy in the vein of It Happened One Night (1934). Raft then was borrowed by 20th Century Fox for It Had to Happen (1936). Back at Paramount he was in Yours for the Asking (1936).

Raft was meant to team with Lombard for a third time in The Princess Comes Across (1936), but refused to make it as he was unhappy with the choice of cameraman. He was replaced by Fred MacMurray and was suspended again in February 1936.[61]

Raft was meant to make You and Me, the directorial debut of Norman Krasna, but refused to work for a first-time director.[62] Raft was put on suspension and $24,000 of his salary was withheld.[63] In October 1936 he and Paramount patched up their differences and Paramount paid him back the $24,000.[64]

Souls at Sea (1937)[edit]

Raft was offered a part opposite the studio's biggest male star, Gary Cooper, in Souls at Sea (1937), directed by Henry Hathaway. Raft originally turned it down as his character was a coward, leaving Paramount and his $4000 a week contract in November 1936. (The contract still had two years to go, but Zukor of Paramount agreed to let him go). Sam Goldwyn wanted Raft for the film version of Dead End and Universal, David O. Selznick and 20th Century Fox were keen on using Raft; Lloyd Nolan was announced as Raft's replacement in Souls at Sea.[65] Raft was discussing a three-film-a-year deal with United Artists for three years, to start with Dead End.[66]

However, Raft agreed to return to Paramount and the film when his part was rewritten to be more sympathetic.[67]

Souls at Sea was a big hit. In 1937 Raft was the third highest paid star in Hollywood, behind Cooper and Warner Baxter, earning $202,666.[12] In May 1937, Raft reportedly tested for the role of Rhett Butler in the film of Gone with the Wind.[68]

Paramount announced him for Millions for Defence, with Ray Milland and Frances Farmer, about the Barbary War, but the film was not made.[69] Instead, he made a drama with Sylvia Sidney, You and Me (1938), directed by Fritz Lang, then was reunited with Hathaway for another adventure story: Spawn of the North (1938), with Henry Fonda and John Barrymore.

He was announced for The World Applauds and Two-Time Loser.[70]

Paramount wanted Raft to appear in St. Louis Blues, but he refused and was replaced by Lloyd Nolan.[71] "Raft is Hollywood's authority on walk outs", wrote one columnist.[56] He was suspended again, then allowed to do a comedy: The Lady's from Kentucky (1939). In January 1939, he refused to make The Magnificent Fraud and was again replaced by Lloyd Nolan. Raft's contract was meant to go until February of that year, but they decided to end it a little bit earlier.[38]

Warner Bros: 1939–1943[edit]

Raft received an offer from Warner Bros. to appear opposite James Cagney in a prison film, called Each Dawn I Die (1939). He followed this with I Stole a Million (1939) for Universal. Each Dawn I Die was a big success and Warners offered Raft a long-term contract in July 1939, at three films a year.[72][73]

Hal Wallis later wrote that "Our association with Raft was a constant struggle from start to finish. Hypersensitive to public accusations of underworld connections, he flatly refused to play the heavy in any film... Time and time again we offered him gangster parts and time and time again he turned them down."[74]

Raft was meant to remake The Patent Leather Kid, one of his favorite films[75] and appear in the story of John Dillinger film with Cagney, but both projects were called off.[76] Instead he was assigned to Invisible Stripes (1939) with William Holden as his brother and Humphrey Bogart in support. Raft was borrowed by Walter Wanger to play a gangster in The House Across the Bay (1940), which was a flop. He was cast in City for Conquest (1940), but turned down the role and was replaced by Anthony Quinn.[77]

He was meant to be in Star of Africa, but the film was not made.[78] He was also meant to make The Dealer's Name was George from a story by Ketti Frings, but turned down the role; it was revived in 1945 as a possible Humphrey Bogart movie, but was ultimately never made.[79]

They Drive by Night (1940), directed by Walsh, was a trucking melodrama, with Raft playing the lead, Bogart appearing in a supporting role as his brother, and Ann Sheridan portraying Raft's leading lady. In July 1940, he reprised his vaudeville act.[80]

In August 1940, he turned down the lead in South of Suez (1940) and was replaced by George Brent.[81] Raft was again placed on suspension, but was meant to go back off it to appear in The Sea Wolf (1941). However, he did not like this role either and was suspended again.[82] John Garfield took his place.[83] MGM were going to borrow him to co-star with Norma Shearer in The World We Make,[84] but the film was never made.[citation needed]

Raft also turned down the leads in High Sierra (which had been turned down by Paul Muni before) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). Both roles were played by Humphrey Bogart. Instead, Raft made Manpower (1941), with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich. Robinson recalled Raft as "touchy, difficult and thoroughly impossible to play with."[85] During filming, Raft and Robinson came to blows, with photographs splashed across newspapers.

Raft then turned down the lead in All Through the Night (1942), refusing to turn up on the first day of filming because he did not want to play a "heel".[86] Bogart took that role as well. It meant Raft was unable to take up Fox's offer to appear in To the Shores of Tripoli.[87]

Raft wanted to appear in a film version of the musical Broadway (1942), made at Universal. Jack Warner refused to loan him out so Raft spent eight months on suspension without pay. They could only do this while making movies that Raft turned down; eventually Warners ran out of movies and they would have to go back to paying him. They let him make Broadway.[88] Raft said he had to pay $27,500 out of his own pocket and negotiate so that Warners could borrow Robert Cummings from Universal for another film. The resulting film was a mild box office success.[89] Raft was reported to have turned down Bogart's role in Casablanca (1942), although according to some Warner Bros. memos, this story is apocryphal. Raft was discussed as a possibility for the lead at one stage, but never offered it.[90]

Raft was one of many Warners names who appeared in Stage Door Canteen (1943). He was reportedly working on a play based on his life with W. R. Burnett called Hell's Kitchen.[91] He finally returned to filming at Warners with the espionage thriller Background to Danger (1943), a film intended to capitalize on the success of Casablanca (Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre were in support – Raft and Lorre got into a fistfight on set.[4]). In November 1942, Raft bought himself out of his Warners contract in order to do Hell's Kitchen on stage.[92] He ended up never doing the play on stage.[citation needed]

Judy Canova and Raft in 1979

Freelance star and producer[edit]

Raft's career as a freelance actor initially began well. He toured the US, England and Africa, performing for the troops in January through to March 1944.[93] In March 1943 he was voted the 6th most popular star among African American movie audiences – Variety said "Raft has always been a prime favorite with the Negro filmgoer."[94] His price as a guest star on radio was $1,500-$2,500.[95] He was offered the lead in Double Indemnity (1944) by Billy Wilder, but turned it down. "We knew then that we'd have a good picture", said Wilder later.[96] (Raft later admitted "I wasn't very intelligent then."[4]) Raft's first film after leaving Warners was Follow the Boys (1944), a musical at Universal, which featured a number of Universal's stars in a guest spots and Raft in the lead. It achieved a healthy gross. 20th Century Fox hired him to a contract so he could appear in a musical, Nob Hill (1945), replacing Fred MacMurray;[97] directed by Hathaway, it was a huge hit.[citation needed]

Edwin Marin[edit]

Following this he made a thriller at RKO for director Edwin Marin, Johnny Angel (1945),[98] which was an unexpected hit as well, making a profit of over a million dollars.[99] Also popular was Whistle Stop (1946), a melodrama for United Artists, which gave an early good role to Ava Gardner. Mr. Ace (1946), with Sylvia Sidney and director Marin for producer Benedict Bogeaus, was a flop. However, it did lead to a rather successful radio series starring Raft, entitled The Cases of Mr. Ace (1947).[citation needed]

In 1946, Raft earned a reported $108,000 for the year.[100] Raft announced he had created his own production company, Star Films, with Sam Bischoff as president, and would make three films in two years for $3.5 million.[101] He and Marin returned to RKO to make the film noir Nocturne (1946), produced by Joan Harrison, which was popular.

Raft's next three films were all directed by Marin: Christmas Eve (1947), at United Artists for Bogeaus, a box office disappointment; Intrigue (1947) at United Artists for Star Films; Race Street (1948) at RKO.

In June 1947, Raft received some bad publicity when his friend the Las Vegas mobster Bugsy Siegel was murdered.[102] However, the following year Hedda Hopper wrote a profile on Raft which said the actor was "going stronger than ever today" adding that "he has made millions, but hasn't got 'em due to a fondness for gambling and a loyalty to helping old friends".[103]

Decline as a star[edit]

Star Film's second movie was a story of the French Foreign Legion, Outpost in Morocco (1949), partly shot on location in Africa. The film was a box office disappointment.[104] He followed this with a series of thrillers: Johnny Allegro (1949), directed by Ted Tetzlaff for Columbia; Red Light (1949), by Roy Del Ruth for United Artists; and A Dangerous Profession (1949), by Tetzlaff for RKO. None of these performed particularly strongly at the box office, and Raft's standing as a box office attraction had been damaged. The Johnny Allegro shoot went on for so long that Raft missed out on the chance to star in The Big Steal (1949); he was replaced by Robert Mitchum.[105]

Raft went to England to make I'll Get You for This, shot in 1950, but not released for another year. In the summer of 1951, Raft had the title role in the radio adventure series Rocky Jordan. He played "the owner of a cabaret in Cairo whose life is steeped in intrigue." However, it only lasted a few months.[106]

Three films for Lippert Pictures[edit]

Raft appeared in two low budget thrillers, Escape Route (1952), shot in England, with Sally Gray, and Loan Shark (1952). Both were released through Lippert Pictures. He starred in a syndicated TV series called I'm the Law (1953), which ran one season.[106] The Man from Cairo (1953), also for Lippert and shot in Europe and Africa, was the last film in which Raft had top billing. He resumed his dancing career, doing an exhibit in Las Vegas. "As far as films are concerned, I'm dead", he said. "Nobody has been breaking their necks trying to hire me."[107] He tried to persuade Darryl Zanuck to remake The Honor System. "I want to play heavies again", he said. "I think I made a mistake going straight."[108]

Supporting actor[edit]

Raft had an excellent role as mob boss supporting Robert Taylor in Rogue Cop (1954), a hit at MGM. Also popular was Black Widow (1954), a noir with Ginger Rogers, but A Bullet for Joey (1955), which reunited Raft with Edward G. Robinson, was a flop.

Raft was one of many guest stars in Around the World in 80 Days (1956) after which, said Raft, "the telephone just seemed to stop ringing".[12] He decided to look for other work.

Later career[edit]


In 1955 Raft was offered the chance to buy a 2% share in the Flamingo Hotel for $65,000 if he acted as entertainment director. Raft agreed, but was rejected for a gaming license because of "too many associations with underworld figures". He appealed, arguing he knew many gangsters, "but I never did business with any of them" and managed to get the decision overturned in December 1955. He went to work at the hotel negotiating their show business deals.[12][109]

He was hired by Santo Trafficante, Jr. to work as a greeter at the Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba,[110] where he was a part owner. This ended when Fidel Castro took over the country and stamped out the casinos. (Raft was in Havana the night the revolutionaries arrived.)[12][93]

Return to movie making[edit]

In July 1958, Raft was offered a role in his first movie in four years: Some Like It Hot (1959), playing a gangster. Due to Marilyn Monroe's tardiness on set, it turned into 16 weeks of work.[93] He made a film in England, Jet Over the Atlantic.

The success of Some Like It Hot did not lead to a comeback, but Raft managed to get roles as a casino owner in Ocean's 11 (1960), and had a cameo as himself in The Ladies Man (1961). In Britain he was in a pilot that never went to series, Two Guys Abroad (1962), and back in Hollywood had small roles in For Those Who Think Young and The Patsy (both 1964).

In 1965, Raft was convicted of income tax evasion. He pled guilty to one count and was fined $2,500. The following year he testified in front of a New York grand jury about Mafia financial transactions.[15]


Raft received an offer from Andy Neatrour to work as a host and part owner of a gambling club in London, the Colony Club. He went there in 1966.[111] While there, he had parts in several movies, including a cameo in 1967's James Bond spoof Casino Royale, a French film with Jean Gabin as the main character, The Upper Hand (1966), and Five Golden Dragons (1967). The club was a success. However, after he went to the US for a short holiday he was banned from re-entering the UK in 1967 as an "undesirable".[15]

His later films included Skidoo and Madigan's Millions (both 1968). However, Cesar Romero replaced George Raft, who had become ill, in the title role of Mike Madigan. None of Raft's scenes remain in the film. Moreover, in most movie reference books and sites the movie is referred to as "Madigan's Millions". In reality, its on-screen name is "Madigan's Million" in the singular.[112]

In the early 1970s, Raft appeared in a now-famous Alka-Seltzer television commercial playing the role of a prison inmate. He worked as a goodwill ambassador for the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.[15] He had to sell his house and move into an apartment in Century City.[12]

His final film appearances were in Hammersmith Is Out (1972), Sextette (1978), reunited with long-ago co-star Mae West, and The Man with Bogart's Face (1980), a nod to 1940s detective movies.[3] He also co-hosted an episode of the Mike Douglas Show the year he died.[113]

Raft was a stockholder in the Parvin-Dohrmann Corporation, a hotel and casino company which owned the Flamingo Las Vegas.[114]

Links to criminal figures[edit]

When James Cagney became president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1942 for a two-year term, he took a role in the guild's fight against the Mafia, which had taken an active interest in the movie industry. Cagney's wife, Billie, once received a phone call telling her that Cagney was dead.[115] Cagney alleged that, having failed to scare him and the Guild off, they sent a hitman to kill him by dropping a heavy light on to his head. On hearing about the rumor of the hit, George Raft made a call, and the hit was supposedly cancelled.[115][116]

Raft was interviewed by FBI agents in 1938 and 1953. The 1938 interview was about his knowledge of Louis Buchalter and Jacob Shapiro.[117]

Raft was investigated for tax evasion in 1942.[118]

In 1944, Raft's name was mentioned in connection with an illegal dice game.[citation needed]

In 1944, he gave evidence when Bugsy Siegel was on trial for bookmaking.[119]

In 1946, Raft was sued by an attorney in Australia for assault.[120]

Raft was present with Bugsy Siegel in 1946, when the latter was again arrested for bookmaking.[citation needed] Raft attended the opening of the Flamingo Hotel.[citation needed]

In 1953, Raft vouched for John Capone, brother of Al Capone, when he got out of prison.[citation needed]

In 1957, Mickey Cohen said he wanted Raft to play him in any movie of his life because "the others would portray me as a vicious gangster, but George would not."[121]

In 1967, Raft was denied entry into the UK (where he had been installed as casino director at a casino known as the "Colony Club") owing to his underworld associations.[122]

Personal life[edit]

Raft married Grace Mulrooney (1902–1970) in 1923,[123] long before his stardom. The pair separated soon thereafter, but the devoutly Catholic Mulrooney refused to grant a divorce, and Raft officially remained married to her and continued to support her, until her death in 1970. A romantic figure in Hollywood, Raft had love affairs with Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Carole Lombard and Mae West. He stated publicly that he wanted to marry Norma Shearer, with whom he had a long romance, but his wife's refusal to allow a divorce eventually caused Shearer to end the affair.[28][124]

Raft died from emphysema at the age of 79 in Los Angeles, on November 24, 1980. Raft left behind no will. His estate consisted of a $10,000 insurance policy and some furniture. In the last years of his life he had mainly lived on $800 a month, a combination of social security and his pension.[125] He was interred in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. Raft's personal effects, wardrobe, etc., were sold by means of a simple classified advertisement, listing the lot for $800 in Hemmings Motor News in the fall of 1981.[citation needed]


Short subjects[edit]

  • Hollywood on Parade No. A-9 (1933)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. B-5 (1933)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. B-8 (1934)
  • The Fashion Side of Hollywood (1935)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 4 (1938)
  • Meet the Stars #6: Stars at Play (1941)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 2 (1941)
  • Hollywood Park (1946)
  • Screen Snapshots: Vacation at Del Mar (1949)

Roles rejected[edit]

Raft turned down roles in the following films:[126][127]

Select radio appearances[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Ray Danton played Raft in The George Raft Story (1961), which co-starred Jayne Mansfield. Raft excoriated the film upon its release due to inaccuracies. In the 1991 biographical movie Bugsy, the character of George Raft was played by Joe Mantegna.[3]

Raft has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for movies at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard and for television at 1500 Vine Street.

Junior Soprano tells Tony that his uncle Eckle, whom he never knew about, looked similar to Raft.


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  • 1900 United States Federal Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll T623_1109; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 642.[non-primary source needed]
  • 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll T624_1025; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 668; Image: 1104[non-primary source needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 0-87749-520-3.
  • Wallace, Stone. George Raft-The Man Who Would Be Bogart. Albany: BearManor Media, 2008. ISBN 1-59393-123-9.
  • Yablonsky, Lewis. George Raft. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974. ISBN 0-07-072235-8.

External links[edit]