George Raft

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      Gangster Actor Extraordinaire

      George Raft was born in New York in 1895. He spent his childhood in the tough Hell's Kitchen area of New York, then left home at 13. He went on to be a prizefighter, ballroom dancer, and taxi-driver, meanwhile maintaining close contacts with New York's gangster underworld. He eventually made it to Broadway, then went to Hollywood in the late '20s. At first considered a Valentino-like romantic lead, Raft soon discovered his forte in gangster roles. He was the actor most responsible for creating the '30s cinema image of gangster-as-hero, particularly after his portrayal of coin-flipping Guido Rinaldo in Scarface (1932)...(scroll down).

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      Raft was a close friend of notorious gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel since they were boys together in New York. Siegel actually lived at Raft's home in Hollywood for a time while trying to make inroads for organized crime within the movie colony.

      He was highly successful for almost two decades, but then bad casting diminished his popularity. By the early '50s he was acting in European films in a vain attempt to regain critical respect, but he was unsuccessful. He starred in the mid-'50s TV series "I Am the Law," a failure that seriously hurt his financial status. In 1959 a Havana casino he owned was closed by the Castro government, further damaging his revenues; meanwhile, he owed a great deal to the U.S. government in back taxes. In the mid '60s he was denied entry into England (where he managed a high-class gambling club) due to his underworld associations. Most of his film appearances after 1960 were cameos. He was portrayed by Ray Danton in the biopic The George Raft Story (1961).

      He died of leukemia on the 24th November 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA. He is interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Court of Remembrance

      Raft was married to Grace Mulrooney from 1923 to her death in 1970 and though they split up soon after the marriage she would never let him divorce her. He was involved with many women, most notably Betty Grable, with whom he carried on an extraordinarily public courtship in the early 1940s.

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