One of a large family brought up in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York, George Raft worked his way up from a hoofer in local dance-halls to Broadway.
In 1929 he made his film debut in Queen of the Nightclubs. The sleek, good-looking Raft then appeared as Spencer Tracy’s henchman in Quick Millions and a succession of similar gangster roles followed – including his famous portrayals of a coin-tossing hood in Scarface and an ex-fighter trying to find class to go with his wealth in Night After Night.
In mid-career his private and social life began to make the news: while dancing in his New York club days he had supposedly fallen in with the Mafia; his nightclub in Havana was closed by the Castro regime: and in 1966 he was refused entry to England by the Home Office because of his gangland connections.
Thanks to one too many squabbles over film roles with Warner Bros, who had him under contract, Raft’s career had all but died by the 1940’s and by the early 1950’s he had all but retired. He died not, as might have been expected, the victim of a hit-man’s bullet, but from leukaemia.
1929: Queen of the Nightclubs
1931: Quick Millions
1932: Scarface, Night After Night
1937: Souls at Sea
1939: Each Dawn I Die
1940: They Drive By Night
1948: Race Street
1954: Rogue City
1972: Hammersmith Is Out