Why Stars Stop Being Stars: George Raft

George Raft had perhaps the worst judgement of any movie star in Hollywood records. Now, all and sundry makes career mistakes, even stars with tremendously-paid advisers, however nobody regarded to reject extra scripts that turned out to be classics than Raft. Consider this list: Belle of the Nineteen Nineties (1934), Dead End (1937), High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Double Indemnity (1944). Raft turned into offered them all but stepped away. If no longer for George Raft, it’s unlikely Humphrey Bogart might have grow to be a movie star.
The irony is, Raft’s career truely survived turning down those movies – what ended his reign as a star were the projects he did afterwards. He basically suffered  cold streaks – the primary passing up on a series of excellent films; the second one in choosing a bunch that killed his profession. To provide all this context I need to go again to the beginning…
Raft changed into born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in 1895 or 1901 (bills fluctuate). He left faculty at age 12 and tried a selection of jobs, inclusive of stints as an apprentice electrician, pool hustler, boxer and minor league baseball participant. He additionally occasionally shipped illegal booze for gangster Owney Madden; lots of Raft’s childhood friends have become gangsters, like Bugsy Siegel and Raft would possibly have long gone that manner if now not for another route to glamour, ladies and cash: dancing. Raft’s mom had taught him some steps and he started out operating as a taxi dancer (a person who you paid to bop with you – it changed into a large issue within the 1920s); he turned into appropriate at it and branched out to acting in nightclubs, exhibitions, speakeasies and concerts.
Raft become a good-looking guy who moved well, and a variety of humans informed him he oughta be in pictures. He went thru Los Angeles whilst visiting a display with nightclub performer Texas Guinan and decided to stay on, choosing up small elements in films, normally dancing and/or searching sinister. You can spot him in Side Street (1929), Goldie (1931), Palmy Days (1931) and Taxi! (1932).
Raft’s first leap forward came when solid as Spencer Tracy’s bodyguard in Quick Millions (1931), a gangster flick at Fox from creator-director Rowland Brown. Raft turned into chosen for his “seductive threat” and it changed into a decent component – flirting with ladies, bumping off fellow gangsters, being shot down by way of Tracy. Raft wasn’t much of a technical actor – he never might be, not simply – but he had swarthy appropriate appears, moved with a dancer’s grace and brought authenticity to any role that involved speakeasies, shoot outs and nightclubs.
Howard Hawks then cast him as Paul Muni’s gangster sidekick in Scarface (1932), a variation of his Quick Millions function only with more meat on it – continuously flicking a coin with a fedora tilted down, seducing Muni’s sister, then paying for it with his lifestyles. The film took some time to be launched  (Howard Hughes produced, and there was censorship problem) but improve word became sensational and earned Raft a long time touch with Paramount.
The studio started out him off with assist components in films like Dancer within the Dark (1931) and Madame Racketeer (1932), and that they loaned him to Universal for Night World (1932). Then Scarface’s launch went wide and response turned into such that Paramount gave Raft the lead in Night After Night (1932), a nightclub drama. This image is best first-class remembered today for introducing Mae West to cinema audiences – and she’s exceptional – but Raft turned into great too as a former gangster became nightclub manager who is having a mid lifestyles disaster: he’s interested in a toff female who used to live in his membership when it was a residence, he’s no longer sure he wants to do his process, he’s were given a crazy trashy ex who maintains causing him hassle, rival gangsters need to buy him out, he’s taking self-improvement classes, and so on. It’s an incredibly likeable, enticing performance and paperwork a strong core for the film, which proved to be successful.
Raft regarded in a bankruptcy of the all-superstar anthology picture If I Had a Million (1932), displaying a surprising aptitude for comedy (he performs a conman unable to coins a million greenback cheque). Then he had the lead Under Cover Man (1932), as a crook who is going undercover to bust the baddies – a trope that Raft would come to like far an excessive amount of for his very own true.
The first time Raft turned down a position turned into while he changed into presented the male lead in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), primarily based on William Faulkner’s Sanctuary. The actor did this because his character changed into too unsympathetic (to be truthful, the component was of a gangster who kidnaps Miriam Hopkins, rapes her, and dumps her in a brothel). Raft was changed by way of Jack La Rule and the resulting movie became a commercial unhappiness which did little for La Rue’s profession – an outcome that served to provide Raft a false idea of the exceptional of his instincts whilst it got here to script selection.
He did Pick Up (1933), a romance with Sylvia Sidney, then performed some other undercover guy in Midnight Club (1933), shot in England. Neither had been that thrilling but Raft became then borrowed through Darryl F. Zanuck’s new organization, 20th Century (quickly to turn out to be twentieth Century Fox), for its first movie, The Bowery (1933), a brawling, pleasing pal story with Wallace Beery; Raft’s appearing continually improved while he turned into teamed with a extra experienced co-superstar and the movie become a popular success.
At Paramount, he did a weird drama with Frederic Marsh and Miriam Hopkins, All of Me (1934), which deservedly flopped (a contemporary critic puzzled if the reels had been by chance swapped around and it appears like that while you watch the movie nowadays). Raft then had a amazing success with Bolero (1934) a dance melodrama with Carole Lombard. Raft turned into every so often referred to as “the new Valentino” because he seemed just like the overdue film star, and had a comparable dancing historical past (the two men knew each different from the dance halls, by the way); Bolero turned into a completely Valentino-kind role for Raft, who played a Belgian coal miner turned dancer, and the film is enormously enjoyable.  Raft’s triumph became somewhat dimmed by way of the fact that in taking pictures he punched out manufacturer Benjamin Glaser for a perceived mild – an early caution signal that the megastar turned into becoming a piece of a tosser. Another indication got here while he became down the male lead in Belle of the Nineteen Nineties (1934) with Mae West due to the fact his element turned into subordinate to West’s. This become Raft’s first really dumb movie preference – there were to be plenty more.
He starred in a series of movies that no person specially recalls: The Trumpet Blows (1934), gambling a Valentino-esque matador (he walked out at the undertaking till script changes were made however they did now not appear to help); Limehouse Blues (1934), as a half-Chinese night membership proprietor, in yellow face; Rumba (1935) with Lombard, an try and repeat the achievement of Bolero , but no manner near as correct; Stolen Harmony (1935), a big band musical, playing an ex-con who’s reachable on the saxophone. He became well received because the enforcer hero inside the original display screen model of Dashiel Hammett’s, The Glass Key (1935).
Raft was very animated in Every Night at Eight (1935), every other massive band musical, in addition to She Couldn’t Take It (1935), a screwball comedy at Columbia wherein he plays a bootlegger who knocks a spoilt own family into shape. It Had to Happen (1936) changed into a dreary drama at twentieth Century Fox alongside Rosalind Russell, more often than not outstanding for Raft’s attempt at vast Italian immigrant accent inside the starting ten mins – however Yours for the Asking (1936) changed into a fairly fun screwball comedy co-starring Ida Lupino, with Raft going for walks a casino.
Raft become intended to make The Princess Comes Across (1936) with Carole Lombard however became the film down because, get this, he felt the cameraman might favour Lombard; Fred MacMurray stepped into the function, but it changed into a foolish selection on Raft’s part who teamed well with Lombard (the two by no means acted collectively again). He additionally refused to be in You and Me because it changed into going to be directed by way of the author, Norman Krasna, who had (at that degree of his career) never directed earlier than.
Paramount put Raft on suspension however he turned into taken off it to co-big name with with Gary Cooper in Souls at Sea (1937), a friend movement movie directed with the aid of Henry Hathaway; it’s an interesting flick in which Raft offers one in every of his best performances, as an earring-wearing slaver (he had insisted the script be rewritten to make his person extra sympathetic); yet again, a bigger co-superstar made Raft elevate his game.
Sam Goldwyn wanted him to play a gangster in Dead End (1937) based on Sidney Kingsley’s hit Broadway play, below the path of William Wyler, then at his peak. Amazingly, rather, Raft turned it down – he did not want to play someone so unsympathetic – in spite of the first-rate of the cloth, the director, the manufacturer, the team and the other participants of the cast. Humphrey Bogart stepped in to play the role and the film changed into a large achievement, to no person’s marvel.
Raft ended up doing You and Me underneath the direction of Fritz Lang – it’s a strikingly weird movie about a department keep in which the employees are ex-cons and vulnerable to breaking out into Kurt Weill songs; it flopped and Raft may also as well have done it with Krasna.
Raft was reunited with Henry Hathaway for Spawn of the North (1938), any other homoerotic-bromance-at-sea tale, best this time with Henry Fonda. That did well but then Raft refused to make St Louis Blues (1938) and The Magnificent Fraud (1939); both instances Lloyd Nolan stepped in to take Raft’s region. After amiable comedy The Lady’s from Kentucky (1939) Raft and Paramount decided to component approaches.
Leaving studios changed into a tricky enterprise for film stars inside the Nineteen Thirties however Raft’s success nonetheless held – Warner Bros supplied him a stunning function in Each Dawn I Die (1939), playing a principled criminal who helps a crusading reporter (James Cagney) in jail. Raft’s performance is electric – tightly wound, dialogue trimmed, the use of his eyes – and the film was a huge hit, causing Warners to provide a long time agreement. After making I Stole a Million (1939) at Universal (an “aw-gee-I-didn’t-imply-to-flip-crook” melodrama wherein Raft is excellent) he commonplace.
The Warners-Raft affiliation must have been best – the studio made quite a few difficult guy movies suitable for the actor – but it might come to be a fair greater turbulent relationship than the one he had with Paramount. Their first venture for Raft became Invisible Stripes (1939), a so-so melodrama co-starring William Holden, with Bogart in aid. Raft changed into offered the position of a gangster within the musical comedy It All Came True (1940), but became it down, so Bogart stepped in once more. Raft then right away performed a gangster for Walter Wanger in House Across the Bay (1940), which aggravated Warners, and no wonder.
The studio had been mollified when Raft did They Drive By Night (1940), a truck riding melodrama with Bogart, Anne Sheridan and Ida Lupino. It’s a sensationally interesting flick that turned into a strong box workplace fulfillment and should have satisfied Raft that his new employers knew what they were doing, however his judgement persevered to worsen. It likely didn’t harm him in the long run to turn down parts in City for Conquest (1940) (Anthony Quinn took over), or South of Suez (1940) (George Brent stepped in). But he additionally rejected roles in The Sea Wolf (1941), High Sierra (1941) and The Maltese Falcon (1941) – these have been all remarkable movies, and what’s extra they had been amazing scripts, and every body with flavor who may want to study would have been in a position to inform that. Raft sooked over The Sea Wolf because it wasn’t the lead – as if that mattered with Michael Curtiz directing, and Edward G Robinson starring from a Jack London novel. He became down High Sierra because it turned into every other gangster  element, despite the terrific source material and Raoul Walsh directing (admittedly Paul Muni rejected the function first for the identical reason… however Muni turned into a proper actor, well hooked up in a variety of elements and Raft wasn’t); Humphrey Bogart stepped in and the movie catapulted that actor from resident Warner Bros villain into sympathetic anti hero. The Maltese Falcon had a primary-time director it’s real, John Huston, but the source fabric turned into a knock out and the script divine – Bogart took over yet again, Huston realised it beautifully, and the resulting movie became an instantaneous traditional which showed Bogart as a star.
Despite this series of ignored possibilities, Raft maintained his expert popularity via teaming with Robinson and Marlene Dietrich in Manpower (1941), an notable melodrama directed by using Walsh. The film also maintained Raft’s fame as a tosser – he abused Robinson all through filming for numerous perceived slights, even punching him at one stage (Raft admitted in later years he became unsure why he did it). To annoy Warners even more, Raft changed into provided the lead in All Through the Night (1942) but turned it down. Who took the element? You guessed it. Bogart. And incidentally, Bogart became intended to be Raft’s co-megastar in Manpower, however Raft refused to appear along him.
Raft fought with Warners to make Broadway (1942) at Universal, and finally they let him. This became based totally on a Broadway musical jumbled in with elements of Raft’s personal youth in New York – he in reality performs himself, that’s presumably a part of the reason he become so keen to megastar in the film. It isn’t specially nicely remembered but it’s a number of a laugh, with plenty of gunfire and dancing, and become fairly famous – Raft was exceptional acknowledged for his gangster movies, however he become additionally a half of-decent attract musicals.
It’s been said that Raft grew to become down the lead in Casablanca (1943) however in keeping with Warner Bros memos he never sincerely obtained an offer. He became definitely discussed as a possibility to play Rick Blaine (both the position and movie were very much in his wheelhouse) – indeed, Raft actively campaigned for the element – but by now Warners had been unwell of him, as they had every proper to be, and they solid Bogart, this time their first preference. I virtually assume Raft would’ve been best as Rick Blaine – I heard Alan Ladd perform it on radio and he was fine too – however he wouldn’t were as true as Bogart.
The studio did put Raft into a Casablanca knock off – Background to Danger (1943) wherein he performs an American in neutral Turkey who gets stuck up in intrigue. Raft still had enough misplaced self belief in his very own flavor to insist on script rewrites that modified his character into a person who was secretly an secret agent all alongside… an adjustment which absolutely undercut the point of the story. By now, Warners and Raft had been unwell of each other and in November 1942 they parted ways.
Raft went on to turn down the lead in a single extra classic movie when Billy Wilder presented him the superstar part in Double Indemnity (1944). To be truthful, a number of other male stars passed in this – the function was very unsympathetic – but Raft’s purpose become particularly dumb: he desired the character, again, to be secretly an undercover police officer. Wilder moved on, discovered Fred MacMurray, and created records.
I used to discern that from this factor on, it changed into all downhill for Raft – who ought to live on a chilly streak of so many bad selections? Especially with out the guide of a first-rate studio? But the following couple of years persevered to be very good for Raft.
At Universal he had the lead position in Follow the Boys (1944), a musical first-rate remembered for proposing cameos from numerous Universal’s agreement list at the time, plus stars who had recently made films for the studio – including Orson Welles doing his magic act and WC Fields performing an old vaudeville bit. Raft did the Charleston, carried the A plot and the film became a box office fulfillment. So too become a musical he made at Fox, Nob Hill (1945), one of these “homosexual 90s” period portions the studio want to churn out, directed by using Hathaway.
Raft went to RKO to make a thriller for director Edwin Marin, Johnny Angel (1945), playing a sea captain investigating his father’s murder. This enjoyable, unpretentious programmer (greater an “A minus” than a “B”), co-written by using Steve Fisher, surprised all of us, together with the studio, by making a earnings of over one million dollars.
Also a success changed into Whistle Stop (1946) for United Artists, an exciting film noir with Ava Gardner and Tim Conway. The quasi-feminist Mr Ace (1946), produced via Benedict Bogeaus and directed by way of Marin, did much less properly, but he and Marin had some other hit with Nocturne (1946), a tight little thriller for RKO where Raft performs a detective who snarls at wealthy people, pushes suspects into swimming pools and pervs on Lyn Bari.
So, seeing that leaving Warner Bros, Raft had starred in 5 hit movies out of six – that become a pretty properly ratio. Maybe he wasn’t Humphrey Bogart, however he turned into doing nicely. Raft would have assumed his status could have continued indefinitely and you can’t truly blame him.
Then the wind commenced to blow a bit colder.
Raft made Christmas Eve (1947) for Bogeaus and Marin, a terrible portmanteau melodrama approximately three one of a kind brothers; the gimmick became, the agenda enabled Raft, Randolph Scott and George Brent to simplest film some days each, however the script changed into weak and the movie flopped.
Raft hooked up his personal manufacturing organisation, Star Films, for whom he seemed in Intrigue (1947), directed by way of Marin: this turned into a movie noir-ish tale of derring-do set in a studio backlot China, with Raft  apparently attempting to channel Alan Ladd, as a leather-based jacket carrying flyer working for the black market. Raft and Martin right away reteamed on Race Street (1948), a thriller wherein Raft is avenging the loss of life of a pal.
These films were profitable but the income have been shrinking – tv become taking up the B image marketplace, and these movies, enjoyable as they may be (they’re no longer horrific fodder even now to look at late at night time on a small screen) had been essentially Bs, with limited budgets and little recognised co-stars. In his heyday, Raft could often seem along stars of the same or larger stature – however that hadn’t occurred in view that Manpower. In hindsight, this changed into to be a first-rate mistake mainly as Raft tended to be extra effective as a 2nd lead.
Raft decided to get special and play an officer inside the French Foreign Legion for Star Films’, Outpost in Morocco (1949); the actor looks uncomfortable in a uniform and kepi which might explain why he back to thrillers: Johnny Allegro (1949), an uneasy combination of crime film and anti-Communist propaganda; Red Light (1949), an uneasy combination of crime movie and spiritual drama; A Dangerous Profession (1949) a story about bail bondsmen with Pat O’Brien. The films became gradually much less a success and Dangerous Profession lost over $two hundred,000 for RKO. To make it worse, the Johnny Allegro shoot went on for see you later that Raft ignored out on the hazard to megastar in Don Siegel’s surprisingly pleasing The Big Steal (1949); he become replaced by way of Robert Mitchum.
Looking again, during this time, Raft ought to have tried to paintings with bigger co-stars, administrators and/or studios, and gotten concerned with extra prestigious tasks; I’m amazed he did no longer try every other musical. He changed into getting on a chunk by way of now however there are constantly components for difficult guy actors who look relaxed with a gun – contemporaries consisting of Cagney and Bogart remained in demand. In equity, maybe Raft did attempt looking, however both he didn’t appearance difficult sufficient or Hollywood had been cooling on the actor. His properly publicised friendship with Bugsy Siegel wouldn’t have helped, mainly after Siegel’s corpse changed into discovered riddled with bullets in 1947 – movie stars who knew gangsters before they had been well-known was a bit titillating, however ones who endured to often associate with them is some thing else. And I doubt all people had forgotten Raft’s track document of punching co-stars and manufacturers.
He starred in two low budget films made in England: I’ll Get You for This (1950), with location work in Italy (and a scene in which he dances the tango) and Escape Route (1951). He did another mystery in Italy, Loan Shark (1952), a quick-lived TV series I’m the Law (1953), and had one remaining leading position in The Man from Cairo (1953). None of those did specifically nicely and the gives screeched to a halt. As Michael Caine once stated, a celeb needs successful in every 5 films, and Raft turned into nicely over the restriction by using now. His reign as a celeb was over.
Raft nevertheless had alternatives. He back to the stage, doing a dancing act, and his gangster associates offered him work as a “greeter” at casinos. MGM then gave him a robust guide function in his first authentic “A” film in years: Rogue Cop (1954), starring Robert Taylor. The film became successful and appeared to signify a comeback for Raft – he became in any other “A”, Black Widow (1954) at Fox, as a detective, then he performed the lead in a “B” contrary Edward G Robinson (during that actor’s “greylist” duration), A Bullet for Joey (1955), playing an exiled gangster who gets a chance to go back to the united states if he facilitates kidnap a scientist in Canada for the commies. It appeared Raft turned into lower back – but after a cameo in Around the World in 80 Days (1956), the offers dried up again.
I’m now not positive why this happened – Raft never mastered the art of acting, it’s authentic, but he nonetheless had presence and could have effortlessly livened up numerous thrillers/gangster flicks. But they didn’t call.
In 1957, he reportedly rejected the lead in a photo with Bella Darvi known as Morning Call due to the fact he was sad with the script – it grew to become out the mission become a phoney concoction created through a jealous Daryl F. Zanuck to keep his mistress Darvi busy, with Raft roped in to provide the mission legitimacy. The script changed into sooner or later filmed as The Strange Case of Dr Manning” (1957) with Ron Randell.
Raft’s personal existence continued to be colorful. He went to work as a greeter at a casino in Havana, Cuba, being gift while Fidel Castro took over the u . S ., and having to get away after the revolution. He had a percentage of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas however financial troubles forced him to sell his percent only a few years before it would have grew to become him right into a tycoon. He went to Mexico to play an FBI agent who falls asleep at handy times on a plane in Jet Over the Atlantic (1959). His first-rate hazard in years became a position as the villain gangster in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), poking fun of his Scarface coin tossing but usually ultimate a risk. This brought about a series of comparable cameos/in-jokes in movies like Oceans eleven (1960), The Ladies Man (1961), For Those Who Think Young (1964), The Patsy (1964), Casino Royale (1967). He grew to become up in Euro-puddings like The Upper Hand (1966) (briefly squaring off towards Jean Gabin) and Five Golden Dragons (1967).
Raft’s life become dramatised a 2d time with Allied Artists’ The George Raft Story (1961), starring Ray Danton within the identify role – a film a whole lot mocked for its many fictitious components but a bit of truth sneaks in (which includes Raft’s issue to separate the jobs he performed from himself). He had problems with the IRS. He labored as a greeter at a gambling membership in London however changed into forbidden to re-input England after a experience away because of his gangster connections.
Raft’s ultimate decade saw him dwelling on a pension (he was in no way exact with money) and flip up in nutty films like Hammersith Is Out (1972), Sextette (1978) and The Man with Bogart’s Face (1980). He died from emphysema in 1980, having outlived Bogart via extra than two decades.
Raft’s repute lingered on: he inspired the Richard Gere man or woman in The Cotton Club (1984), changed into the subject of a monologue within the Neil Simon play Broadway Bound, and he changed into portrayed by Joe Mantegna in Bugsy (1991). He’s remained in Bogart’s shadow because the Nineteen Forties – a lot in order that a 2015 biography of Raft turned into subtitled The Man Who Would Be Bogart.
What training may be learned from George Raft’s profession? Where did he cross wrong?
First of all, he became honestly a surprising choose of fabric – everyone who turns down Belle of the 1990s, Dead End, High Sierra, Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity actually has lousy taste. (It’s been said that Raft become barely literate but even in pitch shape definitely the ones testimonies had been exceptional.)
He additionally had troubles together with his ego. Raft changed into at his best while teamed with a strong co-big name but he shied faraway from Belle of the 1990s and The Princess Comes Across because he become fearful of being overshone with the aid of his woman co-superstar. He punched out producers and co-stars. After Manpower, he didn’t appear in a movie with a bigger celebrity than him till Rogue Cop.
His desire to usually be sympathetic intended he ignored out on roles in notable movies that might have accomplished wonders for him – Dead End, High Sierra – or broken in any other case nice movies – Background to Danger.
There become also a depend of his age. Raft didn’t drink but he become a heavy smoker and in his later films you could almost see the nicotine oozing from his pores. He appears grey and emaciated.
So, for any film stars who show up to come upon this article, right here’s a short summary of the lessons to be learned from George Raft:
– don’t let your ego get within the way of a terrific film;
– move for classy fabric when you could;
– try to cross for the extra protection of a name co-superstar when viable;
– try and range the genres you appear in a touch;
– it doesn’t rely if the director has in no way directed earlier than;
– don’t get a popularity for punching out human beings;
– in case you are satisfactory at playing a form of function (eg. A villain), by all way attempt different things however don’t give up the component you’re first-class at;
– playing a individual who is sympathetic isn’t as vital as gambling one which’s interesting;
– hold on in your cash.
George Raft had a hell of a profession. But it may had been that a whole lot higher if he’d been able to avoid those cold streaks.


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