George Raft Story, The (1961)

George Raft Story, The (1961)

“What’s in it for me?”

Synopsis:
Leaving a life of dancing and criminal involvement behind him, George Raft (Ray Danton) heads from New York to Hollywood, where he eventually makes a name for himself co-starring in Scarface but finds himself typecast far too often as a gangster.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Biopics
  • Gangsters
  • Jayne Mansfield Films

Review:
This largely fictionalized biopic about George Raft is an odd Hollywood outing, given that Raft was still very much alive when it was made (and Danton looks little like him):

According to one poster on IMDb, “After losing everything he made in Hollywood and after getting [out] with barely a change of clothes from revolutionary Havana in 1959 this man needed a stake. So he sold the story of his life to B studio Allied Artists and the result was The George Raft Story.” Still, one wonders exactly what the point was, other than to highlight Raft’s many criminal connections, and give individuals like Al Capone (Neville Brand):

and Bugsy Siegal (Brad Dexter):

opportunities for “cameo” appearances; other notable individuals in Raft’s life — including Betty Grable, for instance — had to be renamed (in this case, Jayne Mansfield played “Lisa Lang”).

The script gets off to a decidedly odd start, with an extended comedy act in a nightclub (who exactly are those fellows?)

before Raft’s then-girlfriend Sheila (Julie London) sings a ditty:

As the film closes, penniless Raft is given advice to accept roles like Spats Colombo in Some Like it Hot and learn to embrace typecasting because at least it provides a living. Okay.

Note: Check out this interesting article for a blow-by-blow overview of all the films Raft either made or turned down, with an emphasis on the ramifications of the latter.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effective cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a huge Raft fan and curious.

Links:

One thought on “George Raft Story, The (1961)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    If you forget the fact that it’s Raft’s story (since it’s largely fictionalized), this isn’t, overall, a bad B-type tale. Director Joseph M. Newman keeps it moving reasonably well and DP Carl Guthrie’s b&w photography makes it attractive.

    Danton’s performance is energetic. In her small, insignificant role, it’s nice hearing London sing. And, as an early (maybe) gf, Barrie Chase (a good Jack Cole dancer who would appear memorably in ‘Cape Fear’ and ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’) shows some spunk.

    Just before the last 30 minutes, top-billed Mansfield shows up – for a flaccid, rather terrible performance.

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