George Raft: A Life Between Hollywood Glitz and Financial Shadows

George Raft, known for his iconic roles in Hollywood films, led a life rife with both success and financial challenges. Born on September 26, 1901, in New York City, Raft emerged as a charismatic figure in the film industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood. His on-screen presence exuded suave charm and undeniable talent, earning him recognition and adoration from audiences.

Raft’s journey to stardom began in the 1920s as a professional dancer, notably performing alongside his friend and fellow actor, James Cagney. His entry into acting came through minor roles in silent films, eventually transitioning to talkies. Raft’s breakthrough came with his role as a gangster in the film “Scarface” (1932), which showcased his adeptness in portraying tough yet charming characters.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Raft starred in a string of successful films, often portraying gangsters and tough guys in crime dramas like “Each Dawn I Die” (1939) and “They Drive by Night” (1940). His portrayal of coin-flipping gangster Spats Colombo in “Some Like It Hot” (1959) further solidified his status as a legendary actor.

George Raft’s personal life was shrouded in complexities and enduring commitments. His marriage to Grace Mulrooney in 1923, long before his rise to stardom, faced a swift separation, yet an unyielding refusal of divorce from Mulrooney compelled Raft to remain legally bound to her until her passing in 1970. Despite their separation, he dutifully supported her throughout, a testament to his commitment despite the failed marriage.

Raft’s romantic escapades were well-known in Hollywood, featuring love affairs with prominent figures like Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, Carole Lombard, and Mae West. His desire to marry Norma Shearer was thwarted by his wife’s unwavering refusal to grant a divorce, eventually leading Shearer to terminate their long-standing romance.

Despite his fame and success on the silver screen, Raft encountered financial difficulties that plagued him throughout his life. Contrary to his image in films, where he often played affluent characters, Raft struggled financially due to poor money management and failed investments. Reports suggest that by the time of his death, Raft had faced financial hardships and died with minimal wealth, a stark contrast to his cinematic portrayals of affluence.

Raft’s personal life was also marked by controversies and entanglements with organized crime figures, contributing to his tumultuous reputation. He was rumored to have associations with mobsters, which added a layer of intrigue to his off-screen persona. His rumored ties to the underworld further contributed to the mystique surrounding his life.

Despite his financial challenges and controversies, Raft’s contributions to the film industry were undeniable. His performances, particularly in gangster films, left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Raft’s legacy as a versatile actor who effortlessly brought complex characters to life remains an enduring part of cinematic history.

On November 24, 1980, at the age of 79, George Raft passed away in Los Angeles due to leukemia. His death marked the end of a remarkable career and a life that saw both the glitz of Hollywood success and the shadows of financial struggles. Despite his financial hardships in later years, Raft’s impact on cinema remains etched in the annals of Hollywood history, a testament to his talent and on-screen charisma.

Upon Raft’s death at the age of 79 from emphysema in Los Angeles on November 24, 1980, the void left behind by his passing exposed surprising details of his modest financial state. With no will and an estate limited to a $10,000 insurance policy and furniture, Raft’s last years saw him living on a modest $800 monthly, sourced from social security and his pension.

Raft’s interment at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery marked the final resting place of the Hollywood icon. His personal items, including his wardrobe, were sold off via a classified advertisement in Hemmings Motor News for a mere $800 in the fall of 1981.

George Raft’s legacy persists through his contributions to the entertainment industry, commemorated with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Recognized for his impact in movies at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard and television at 1500 Vine Street, these stars serve as enduring symbols of Raft’s influence and mark his significant contributions to both film and television during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Despite financial challenges and personal complexities, Raft’s star-studded legacy remains etched in the annals of Hollywood’s history, a testament to his enduring impact on the entertainment world. George Raft’s life serves as a reminder of the complexities that often lie beneath the surface of fame and success. His legacy endures as a testament to the allure and challenges of Hollywood’s Golden Age, where on-screen personas often diverged from the realities faced by the stars off-camera.

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