TWO VIEWS OF TWO VERY DIFFERENT GEORGE RAFTS
Before he became famous for turning down the roles that made Humphrey Bogart famous, George Raft was a hoofer of considerable ability. He danced in New York nightclubs of the twenties, dabbling in gangsterism along the way--I think it speaks very well of the 1920s that the times were liberal enough for crime bosses to hire guys who also liked to tap dance. Get a load of his actually quite fancy hoofing from the 1929 movie "Side Street". And read this quite fascinating Wikipedia entry on Raft's life. The gangster stuff was real--he apparently was always making phone calls to call off hits on fellow actors who'd slept with mob guys girlfriends--and I particularly like the bit where he winds up so on the skids in the 1950s that he becomes a "greeter" (aka maitre'd) at a ganged-up club in Havana. In 1959, Billy Wilder had the temerity to cast him in "Some Like It Hot", in which he good-naturedly spoofed his own long-ago image (much in the way Wilder used Von Stroheim in Sunset Blvd, now that I think about it). And ten years after that, he appeared in the deeply strange Alka Seltzer commerical that I've posted below. Forty years separates these two views of two very different George Rafts.
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 2:02 PM