George Raft

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: George Raft

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've seen Red Light, it's the one with the bible quotation isn't it? I've been sent Race Street, Rogue Cop and Johnny Angel. He's ideal for noir to me and his reputation must have made him seem ideally suitable at the time.

I was checking his imbd record last night when looking at the movies I've been sent and it seems he had a mysterious marriage before Grace, no name or date but there nevertheless. I thought the imdb were tight on their details but this would suggest otherwise.
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moira finnie
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Re: George Raft

Post by moira finnie »

Hi Stone,
Could you please tell me if George Raft and Sylvia Sidney liked working together in Fritz Lang's oddly entertaining You and Me (1938)? I am very fond of Sidney's film work and her movies working with Lang might be among her finest. I know that Sylvia Sidney found Lang to be quite simpatico, but I wondered if Raft found the often autocratic Lang difficult (as many actors, such as Spencer Tracy did---though they often did some of their work under his direction)

I know that Sylvia and George worked together in Pick-Up (1933) and later in Mr. Ace (1946), but I have not had a chance to see those movies yet.

Thank you.
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Western Guy
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Re: George Raft

Post by Western Guy »

Hi Moira:

Yes, definitely Sylvia enjoyed working with George in You and Me (strange yet entertaining film). Raft prevented Fritz Lang-friction between himself and Sylvia (as the director had attempted to orchestrate between Sidney and Henry Fonda in You Only Live Once) by stepping right up to Lang and telling him outright not to try such tricks. Later, Sidney was very grateful to George when he supplied her not only with a package of cigarettes but a whole carton, along with silk stockings, which were very difficult to get during the war. Sylvia was later to say that out of all the great male stars she worked with, Raft was the greatest gentleman, adding: ". . . And he never made a pass at me."

Allison: Yes, there have been cloudy rumors about a previous marriage and a son that came from that union, but Raft never spoke of that - not even to his pal and earlier biographer Lew Yablonski, whom I also spoke with in preparation of my own book - so again, no way of verifying that. As it stands, I currently and legally represent the George Raft estate when it comes to licensing his image. No one else has ever stepped forward as a Raft heir.

Yep, Red Light has the Bible quotes. Not to mention a great villainous portrayal by Ray Burr. Harry Morgan told me that he had nothing but the finest feelings of warmth towards Raft, whom he called a talented and most generous actor. Adding that he wished he could have done ten more pictures with George.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: George Raft

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I'm not sure I've never seen Raymond Burr play anything but a villan, the scariest villans too.

I'd love to see You and Me, I love Lang movies, like Moira I really like Sylvia Sidney's screen work, she has an unusual look about her and rather a winning smile and is a talented actress. I do have Mr Ace to watch though, I haven't seen any of Sylvia's later work.

It does seem strange that you wouldn't know about a son, Stone, he just doesn't come across as an uncaring type, he didn't know his own family very well but there are so many testimonies to how caring a person that he was.

i have two books here Stone, they are 'Biographical Dictionaries of Film' one by David Thomson which I nearly threw out last night, he was so rude about George Raft the actor and the man, another by David Shipman. Both men seemed to have decided that he was only there because of who he knew and of who was afraid of him and the realism he would bring to the gangster roles. I don't think either man had watched one of his movies, which is a great pity from men who consider themselves to be film historians.
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Western Guy
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Re: George Raft

Post by Western Guy »

Well, Raft has always gotten a bad rap, especially from critics, though some so-called film historians choose to completely overlook George's contribution to cinena. Raft certainly made some terrible movies (especially in the 50s) and his acting generally suffered in comparison to his tough guy contemporaries, but he also turned in some damn fine performances, as well. As I maintain, George was at his best when paired with a strong co-star and/or a good director. A lot of his 50s output provided neither, hence his career really started to falter.

The notable exceptions: Rogue Cop and Some Like It Hot.

Well, actually it's stranger that Lew Yablonsky wouldn't know about a son. He worked closely with George for a number of years on Raft's 1974 autobiography. If Raft did have a child - and knew it - I'm sure it would have been mentioned to Lew. George was very open about his past: his marriage to Grayce and his underworld dealings. Unless it was a subject that shamed George so much he simply could not discuss it.

One point of interest. While preparing my book, I had many long discussions with Lew. I remember asking him point-blank if he thought George was a gangster. Lew replied: "Yes". Frances Dee (with whom Raft worked in Souls at Sea) said pretty much the same thing.


Re: Raymond Burr. Certainly you've watched Perry Mason and the original Godzilla. But yes, Mr. Burr, God bless him, was one of the best film villains. Raft liked him, too, saying that Raymond "had a lot of talent".


Mr. Ace is not George or Sylvia's finest hour. You and Me is a lot more fun, as is Pick-Up.
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Re: George Raft

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I used to set great store by what critics wrote but I've learnt to be my own and to listen to the members of this site, it's far more rewarding.

Actually I haven't seen Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, it was broadcast here in the afternoon when I was working, was he wheelchair bound? I'm only fimiliar with him from his noir films. a frightening looking guy, I bet he was sweet in real life.

What do you think Lew meant by gangster? More than he had the connections? Did he pull the strings or was it by association or is it the shady middle ground? It's so open to interpretation and I guess we'll never know.

I was thinking of a conversation a few posts back with regards to how literate George was, then I remembered he gave a lot of radio broadcasts, presumably these were live. Would someone worried about their own limitations take on live radio, looking at his credits they're sometimes roles that he didn't play on screen.
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Re: George Raft

Post by Western Guy »

No, you're thinking of R.B. as Ironside. That came some years later. Perry Mason was the lawyer who never lost a case (except once, I think). Could be considered R.B.'s signature role. He was great at playing vile characters early in his career but, yes, in real life he was a kind and gentle man. People I've spoken to who knew R.B. have said only the nicest things about him.

Lew Yablonsky never really elaborated, but I think he was speaking more about Raft's associations. George knew a lot of hoods and it was that guilt by association thing that labeled him. It certainly caused him a lot of problems, as I speak about in my book.

If you want to hear an interesting Raft radio broadcast, I believe YouTube has a condensed audio version of "Each Dawn I Die", with Franchot Tone essaying the Cagney role. Too bad they couldn't get Jimmy to reprise Frank Ross.
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Re: George Raft

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've seen George in technicolour now, cinemascope no less. The kids went back to school this morning and I'm afraid I succumbed to a movie before doing any of the chores. I think the description would be silver fox today. We're talking of a man nearing 60, well I'd knock at least 10 years off, colour was kind to him, it's not always kind to the leading men a little past their prime but he has a tanned complexion that looked natural and silverly hair and is vey trim. Black Widow was the movie and it's a feast of stars, Ginger Rogers looked terrific and with the most gorgeous gowns although she has strong competition from the very attractive Gene Tierney. Van Heflin is the leading man and Reginald Gardiner plays Ginger's husband. A good plot, I was left guessing although it did become apparent who did it a little before the resolution, Peggy Ann Garner played the victim. George played the cop, he didn't make an appearance until a third of the way through, it didn't exactly give him much to shine with but for me it was a film of 4 stars, no one bigger than the other and each playing their part equally well. Looking at this I still can't believe he was nearly 60, what good genes he had.

Very much guilt by association, he was never arrested in Hollywood and you're not telling me that some cop wouldn't have loved to have pulled him in for something.

I'll check out that radio broadcast once I've seenthe movie, what a pity Cagney didn't reprise his role, I like Franchot Tone but he's not Cagney.

I don't appreciate American TV stars, we had different ones but I should know of Raymond Burr's detective roles. Didn't he die whilst filming Ironside, I remember him being on the TV here and then dying in the midst of a series.
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Re: George Raft

Post by RedRiver »

PERRY MASON is one of those TV shows I never get tired of. Even If I know who the killer is, and usually I've forgotten, I enjoy the way the story unfolds. Somebody said there are certain shows you stop "flipping" for. Meaning, you're switching through the channels and...stop! PERRY MASON is one of my stoppers!
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Re: George Raft

Post by Western Guy »

I'm surprised, Allison, that you would give Black Widow such a high rating, as it is generally acknowledged to be a poor film. It was intended to be another "comeback role" for George (along with Rogue Cop), but in the end did virtually nothing for him, except garner Raft some negative reviews. And that's unfortunate since Rogue Cop provided him with his best reviews since the early 40s at WB. Raft did shine when playing a gangster.

But Raft does look good in the film, even if it's a bit of a shock at one time to see him pull out a pair of reading glasses.

At various points throughout his movie career, Raft was questioned by Hollywood cops for various reasons, so the law did seem to be keeping somewhat of a watch on him. His FBI file is interesting, though, frustratingly, there's a lot of stuff blacked out.

I agree RedRiver about Perry Mason. We have it playing daily on one of our cable stations and I find I still enjoy it and watch it whenever I can. Great stories, neat guest stars and terrific chemistry between the leads. A true TV classic!
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Re: George Raft

Post by knitwit45 »

While on a tour of Universal Studios in Hollywood, many many years ago, the tour guide told one of the nicest stories about Raymond Burr. He was currently starring in Ironside and it was extremely popular. One day, as one of the open tour buses was going by, a lady spotted Mr. Burr walking across the lot. She cried out, "Oh, look!!! He can WALK!!". She realized her mistake (accepting the tv reality for real life) and was mortified, while others on the bus were laughing at her. Mr. Burr had heard her, and walked over to the bus, (it was more like a tram), took the lady's hand, and talked to her for almost five minutes, assuring her there was no greater compliment to his acting than having people believe he really was confined to a wheelchair.
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Re: George Raft

Post by moira finnie »

I love that story about Raymond Burr, Nan. I just knew he would be like that. Everything I've ever read about the man makes me think he was a decent fellow. And those blue eyes! Don't care if he played for the other team, he was very appealing.

Btw, it was such a pleasure for me to discover in recent years what a fine actor Burr was in his many roles as a very bad guy in film noirs. He managed to make each of his villainous portraits interesting and varied their shenanigans. Several were only one or two dimensional characters if you just looked at the script, but Burr could make them highly entertaining (The Whip Hand, His Kind of Woman) and even evoked some empathy by reminding us that each of them had their reasons for doing what they did (especially true in Pitfall and Rear Window). For those who would enjoy a very well-written and detailed account by Stone Wallace on the movie that brought Raft and Burr together, Red Light (1949) you can see it here on the blog Film Noir of the Week.

If anyone is interested in more info about Burr's other roles in this genre, there is a very good article about Raymond Burr's baddies available on line from The Film Noir Foundation, found below in PDF form:

The Heaviest of Them All: The Film Noir Legacy of Raymond Burr by Carl Steward
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Re: George Raft

Post by CineMaven »

One of the gems in the swag bag at the recent TCMFF was a book called "NOIR CITY: Annual 2011 Film Noir Foundation" and included in the book is the Burr article you cited. Talk about turning it around from villain to hero lawyer and then hero police guy...Raymond Burr was a fine actor.

I must say though, that the glue that binds the book together is not good, and upon opening it, the book just breaks apart, pages all over the place. Ugh!!! But it's still being a great read for me.
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Re: George Raft

Post by charliechaplinfan »

What a nice guy Raymond Burr was and what a lovely story, I knew a guy who could be so mean on screen could only be one of life's nice guys.

I enjoyed reading Stone's review of Red Light, thanks for the link Moira. I remember the film quite well now, I thought it was well acted throughout and had quite a tight and interesting plot line, I think I might revisit it soon.

If Black Widow is one of his worst films Stone, I'm going to really enjoy them all, a film with 4 stars could have delivered more and there is a certain nostaligia that I like by watching Ginger Rogers still looking amazing and topping the bill and giving her all to her performance. I liked George Raft as the copper, he had a certain authority and I liked the glasses, I thought they looked rather stylish, red I think they were.

Judging by what technicolour shows up, I'd say that he looks like he has an olive complexion, the Italian heritage perhaps?

Did the people who used black pen on the FBI reports never think that we would be interested one day? :roll: It's so annoying :wink: Did the stuff that remained help you at all with Raft's biography?
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Re: George Raft

Post by Western Guy »

Thanks very much, Moira, for providing the link and your very kind words regarding my writeup on Red Light. I will say it is my favorite post-Warners, pre-Rogue Cop George Raft film. How can it not be with great villainous support not only from Raymond Burr but also Harry Morgan (another sweet guy, BTW).

Well, I'm glad you enjoyed Black Widow, Allison. Not a great fave of mine, but watchable. And, yes, George DID have an olive complexion, which he inherited from his mom. It's noticeable especially in some of his early 1930 films, like If I Had a Million.

Absolutely the FBI files were of use in putting together the book, as was my being able to obtain the Dean Jennings series of 1950's interviews "Out of my Past". I never knew that Joan Crawford was George's landloard when he was living in an apartment for a time. Nor did I realize that he could never quite curb his compulsion to steal, even after he became a big (and wealthy) Hollywood star. Guess some habits die hard, especially for a tough street kid who at times was forced into thievery just to survive.

Here's some trivia about Raymond Burr. When he was working on Mara Maru with Errol Flynn, Flynn one day said to Raymond that if he died with even $10 in his pocket, he would not have lived his life properly. Raymond adopted that as his own philosophy. He died a wealthy man but was also extremely generous and giving, though he preferred to keep much of his charitable endeavours personal and private. He also would never permit mistreatment of fellow actors on the sets of his television series, threatening to walk off if producers and/or directors got too pushy.

Bottom line: A class act all the way.
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