Thursday, October 04, 2012
George Raft: Film Gangster
"Whistle Stop": A story of love and intrigue in a small railroad town. Kenny manages to clean up his act and win Mary back, only to be framed for murder by her jealous suitor. Mark Hellinger spotted a possible actress for his next feature in the independently produced, low budget noir, Whistle Stop (1946). The next Hellinger feature, an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's story, The Killers (1946), would go on to make MGM contract player Ava Gardner a big star.
Eva (George's mother) felt her son’s success was incomplete unless it was shared with the right woman. Getting married at that time was the farthest thing from George’s mind. He had all the women he cared to have; moreover, he was concerned with his rising career. Yet one girl, Grayce Mulrooney, did appeal to him. Grayce had been one of the girls who had been his ballroom partners and he had dated her a number of times. “We had breakfast, went down to the City Hall in Wilkes-Barre. And by four that afternoon I was a married man. Finally I figure, this is it, my wedding night. I took a bath. I was always a perfume nut—so I put some perfume on. Then I put on soft silk pajamas and my robe. Grayce goes into the bathroom and I’m waiting with great anticipation. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, this isn’t too bad. Maybe fate had stepped in.’ I began to think it might be nice to have a family. I liked kids. I was tired of one-night stands and the kind of girls I had been running around with, and Grayce looked good. Finally I put my arms around her and she stiffened. She said, ‘I’m too upset to make love tonight.’ "I felt very rejected and depressed. We were both wiped out from the emotion of that day. We each got into our own bed." A few days later, when he was in Dayton, he received a letter from his mother telling him that his wife was seen by a friend in a place called The Long Beach Club drinking with two men. Raft clearly ended his relationship with Grayce. She accepted the separation and went her own way; but —whether out of vindictiveness, obstinacy or, as she claimed, her devout Catholicism —she refused from 1923 until her death in 1970 to grant George a divorce. Years later, when George became a success in Hollywood, Grayce, as his wife, demanded a share of his income. George signed over to Grayce ten percent of his earnings. Over forty-seven years Grayce’s ten percent amounted to well over a million dollars.
Hawks used what he had seen at his party. After flirting with George in every scene they meet, Ann finally gets to George in a night club. When they did the scene Hawks told them to do exactly what they did at the party. She comes up to his table and dares him to dance. At first, he turned her down, then he gives in when she does a sensuous dance that initiates their fatal relationship. Hawks believed “the scene played like a million dollars because it was something that really happened between George and Ann.” During the making of Scarface, in which Raft played the bodyguard, Gino Rinaldi, a close relationship developed between the two principal actors; and Muni’s preparation, acting, and advice were of inestimable value to Raft. During the production of Scarface, Howard Hughes visited the set several times; and, though Raft respected Hughes, even liked the young producer, he almost lost his part because of an unintentional interference in the former aviator’s personal life.
In New York Raft had become friendly with the well-known millionaire playboy, Jock Whitney. They met again in the mid-thirties at a Hollywood racetrack and reminisced about the good old Broadway days, the El Fey Club, and old friends. With Whitney was a woman who listened attentively to these curious exploits. Virginia Pine was, among other things, an aspiring actress who had played several bit parts, and though she concealed her pleasure she was thrilled at meeting Raft. She was a slender woman whose fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes gave her a gossamer beauty. Her appearance and well-bred manner made Raft feel like an overdressed peasant. Confronted with her aloofness, Raft was entranced by the challenge of aspiring to such an obviously unattainable ideal.
the Capri. Hot, which starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lem-mon, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown, and Raft, opens in the mid-twenties of Al Capone’s Chicago. By coincidence, two musicians, Lemmon and Curtis, witness a St. Valentine’s Day-type gangland massacre committed by Spats Colombo, played by Raft, and his mob.