George Raft; date uniknown
George Raft on Wikipedia
George Raft on the Internet Movie Database
George Raft with Rosa Grauman Tribute
Forecourt Ceremony held on Monday, March 25, 1940
Born: George Ranft, September 29, 1901, in New York City, New York
Age at the time of the ceremony: 38
Died: November 24, 1980, in Los Angeles, California, age 79
George Raft became the screen's leading tough-guy character during the 1930s and 1940s. Rising from poverty, his direct delivery of "tough guy" dialog made him a meorable addition to almost any picture. Involved with the gangster set in real life, his signature role is that of "Spats" Columbo in Some Like It Hot (1959).

Born to German immigrant parents in New York's Hell's Kitchen, George was a strange one. Not particularly good in school, he drifted toward street activities at an early age, becoming friends with future gangsters Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel. Raft had his moments of criminal mischief when young, and acknowledged later in life that he had narrowly avoided joining the gangster ranks.

However, young George enjoyed dancing! And fancy clothes. And so he drifting into being a dancer at some of the nightclubs of New York. It was here where he was recruited by the legendary Texas Guinan to be a dancer at her famous New York speakeasy, the 300 Club. Spotted by talent scouts, Raft made his Broadway debut in Jerome Kern's The City Chap, which played for two months at the end of 1925. He toured to London and Europe in 1926, then returned to Broadway for the revue Padlocks of 1927 in September, 1927. Fred Astaire noted later that Raft did "the fastest Charlston I ever saw."

But Raft had a great ambition: to be an actor in the movies. Moving to Hollywood in 1929, he took on small roles in films, playing gigalo dancers, pickpockets and henchmen. His big break came in the film Taxi (released in January, 1932), where he proved to be a serious threat to James Cagney (no stranger to dancing, he) in a dance competition. Raft made a huge impression in Scarface (released in April, 1932), for which Raft tapped into his Hell's Kitchen upbringing for his role as Paul Muni's trusted hitman Guino Rinaldo. Raft's performance led many to believe that he was an actual gangster. Real-life gangsters began to imitate him!

And so, the die was cast. Raft was a movie star, and he was cast in roles playing gangsters for almost the rest of his career: Night after Night (released in October, 1932), If I Had a Million (released in January, 1933), The Bowery (released in October, 1933), Limehouse Blues (released in December, 1934), The Glass Key (released in June, 1935), Souls at Sea (released in September, 1937), Spawn of the North (released in August, 1938), Invisible Stripes (released in December, 1939), and They Drive By Night (released in August, 1940).

Famously turning down the role of Sam Spade in director John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (released in October, 1941), he starred in Manpower (released in August, 1941) instead. He appeared as himself in a biopic covering his early days called Broadway (released in May, 1942). After making Background to Danger (released in July, 1943), Raft demanded to be let go of his acting contract at Warner Bros.' After that, Raft took up residence at R-K-O, where he starred in Johnny Angel (released in January, 1946), and Nocturne (released in November, 1946).

Raft turned to the independent sector for work, but the films were somewhat uneven: Outpost in Morocco (released in May, 1949), Johnny Allegro (released in May, 1949), Nous irons a Paris (We Will All Go to Paris, released in August, 1950), and Loan Shark (which played the Chinese in May, 1952).

For a couple of months in 1951, he took over the title role in a radio program called Rocky Jordan, but then the show was cancelled. Having invested in the Capri Hotel in Havana, Cuba, Raft went to work there as a "greeter;" he also owned a share of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. During the 1950s, he accepted smaller roles in various films: Rogue Cop (released in June, 1955), Some Like It Hot (which played the Chinese in April, 1959), Ocean's 11 (released in August1960), and Casino Royale (released in April, 1967). He played the prisoner who, after eating, demands some Alka Seltzer in the famous television commercial. His film bio, The George Raft Story was released in November, 1961, but Raft hated the thing.

George Raft died of lukemia in 1980 at the age of 79.
Caption TK
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. George Raft Forecourt ceremony, Monday, March 25, 1940. Sid Grauman looks on as George Raft places a lucky penny into the cement.
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