Friday, 21 March 2014

Precode Double-take: Dancer and Gangster, George Raft

Remaining a star in the golden studio era was all about adaption. Actors and actresses would need to morph their characters and appearances along with societies changing expectations, mood and values as well as keep the essence that made them famous to begin with. Cary Grant moved from madcap screwball roles to sophisticated romantic comedies and Bette Davis and Norma Shearer developed from hardworking, ingĂ©nues to strong-willed, determined women as they aged and the public’s preferences changed. Hollywood’s matriarch, Joan Crawford, went further dramatically altering her appearance as her parts transformed in the war years and beyond by adding dark, bushy eyebrows and imposing shoulder-pads to create a lasting and unforgettable legacy.

Unfortunately, talented actor and performer, George Raft, was no exception to the rule. Intent in keeping the global appeal he enjoyed in the 1930’s and early 1940’s he refused to take unsympathetic roles, work with inexperienced directors or feature in unworthy B-pictures. As a result, he reportedly turned down a number of films that became classic and legendary movies, such as, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra. He was an overwhelming success in his characteristic roles as the gangsta, tough-guy or confidence-trickster of the 1930’s but his appeal failed as he refused to shift into the diverse war years roles. Regrettably, Raft is not as well-known and celebrated today as his talent should have afforded him. Stone Wallace’s biography, The Man Who Would Be Bogart, brought Raft’s legacy to the forefront of many people’s minds but his acting talent, sexual appeal and surprising dancing ability remain, generally, a forgotten mark on Hollywood’s history. 
Below is George Raft in a number of his stereotypical roles and shots in the Precode and Post-code eras.
Raft as a Bartender

Left Post-code: Raft as the possessive bar owner in Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Right Precode: Raft as another bar owner in Night After Night (1932) alongside the Mae West in    her first role
Raft Dancing

Left Post-code: Raft as the seductive but doomed dancer in Bolero (1934)

Right Precode: Dancing alongside Pat O’Brien in Broadway (1942)
Raft the Gangster

Left Post-code: Raft in the iconic comedy film starring Marilyn Monroe Some Like it Hot (1959)
Right Precode: In his equally iconic role as a gangster in Scarface (1932)
Raft: Down and Out

Left Post-code: Raft alongside Humphrey Bogart in They Drive By Night (1940)
Right Precode: Raft as a shifty tramp and confidence trickster in If I Had a Million (1932)
The Women
Left Post-code: With the beautiful Dolores Costello and Ida Lupino in Yours for the Asking (1936)
Right Precode: Raft as another heartless gangster with Anna May Wong and Jean Parker in Limehouse Blues (1934)
On the Right Side of the Law

Left Post-code: With Clive Brook, Raft plays an undercover agent in The Midnight Club (1933)
Right Precode: Raft with Peter Lorre as a machinery salesman in spy thriller in Background to Danger (1943)
The Torso

Left Post-code: With Humphrey Bogart in Invisible Stripes (1940)
Right Precode: Raft having a relaxing bath in Scarface (1932)
And maybe a little bit more:


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