« The "Yips" | Main | Where I Live, 2020 »

October 20, 2020


Craig Owens

I'm sorry you feel that way about George. I'm one of those people who lobbied Robert Osbourne to get Raft's films on TCM. The problem for years...and why TCM is now happy to have Raft's films...is that his large body of work was never in one centralized vault. He was with Paramount and WB before going independent and all of the studios sold its backlog of films over the years. It took a decade or so for TCM to assemble them in order to do a star of the month. Being able to show Raft's films again actually led to a much needed renaissance for him. After all -- his gangsters were the ones real life mobsters loved most and emulated. They loved him more than Cagney, Bogart and Robinson because there was a quiet, simmering rage to Raft that the others didn't quite have.

As for George Raft's acting -- he went from being a scene stealer to being star who held his own to being mediocre -- to sleep walking. A couple of factors for the decline: 1. He started wearing a girdle in the late 1930s. This didn't help with him 2. being a heavy smoker, who started having respiratory problems in the mid to late 1940s. 3. Many directors actually told him to not smile...that they wanted him to be detached because that came across as "cool." As for his speaking -- he always spoke by barely moving his lips. It is an old mob trick to try and prevent people from reading lips. Raft considered himself an expert lip reader which resulted in occasional fist fights and him allegedly saving Cagney's life from a mob related accident on "Each Dawn I Die" once he figured out that mobster Willie Bioff was scheming something bad. Raft also could barely read...allegedly...so he didn't like a lot of dialogue. However, he was known for always coming to the set prepared and for hitting his mark. The problem with his acting is that he never did anything out of the usual. If the script called for him to look surprised, he looked surprised. If the script called for nothing - he gave nothing. To me, this is more of the director's responsibility than Raft, who never watched his own films. George did his best work with Raoul Walsh, who brought out a solid performance nearly every time. Henry Hathaway also got a good performance out of him. Raft also performed better when he was surrounded with A-List talent...with the exception of "Black Widow."

As for his noir films -- I agree. Most are mediocre yet he still is regarded as an icon of the genre. I've heard the criticism and even discussed him with Eddie Mueller (who isn't a Raft fan at all). The take is this: the negative side is that Raft was too old and too slick looking to play noir. Guys with craggy faces did better. The positive is that Raft always played emotionally detached characters, which is one of the defining characteristics for noir. However, Raft often came across as a little too detached.

If you get the chance to see him in the original "Glass Key," please do. Although I'm biased -- I thought that the Raft version of the film was better than the Alan Ladd version (which was almost shot for shot). I also felt that Raft was more believable than Ladd...Same with Edward Arnold over Brian Donlevy. But I saw the Raft version before seeing the Ladd version so this could have jaded me as well.

Overall...I'm glad George is back. He was an interesting person -- perhaps more interesting as a movie star than as an actor. I'm not sure, however, that I would have liked him if I had met him in person. Better, I think, to like him from afar.

Don Z. Block

Raft's death scene in "Some Like it Hot" supports what you are saying. Billy Wilder should have reminded Spats that he had just been machine gunned.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Blogs I Read