Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


THE GEORGE RAFT STORY (1961). Director: Joseph M. Newman.

Dancer George Raft (Ray Danton) meets gals, entertainers and hoodlums in New York City nightclubs. Then it is suggested that he take off for Los Angeles and try his luck in the movies. He treats women like dirt, punches out people at the slightest provocation, gets a swell head, becomes a has-been, appears in Some Like It Hot as a kind of comeback, and in general acts like a major asshole. Oddly Raft -- who could have sued for defamation of character -- was still alive in 1961, so one supposes he actually liked that image as well as the fact that "Bugsy" or Benny Siegel (Brad Dexter of 99 River Street) was one of his best friends. Danton is an odd choice to play Raft, especially as he's much better looking and arguably much more talented than the real George Raft, who seemed to be a passable dancer and little else. Danton does an okay job of faking the fancy footwork with lots of coaching, but there's no genius there a la Fred Astaire. Jayne Mansfield, of all people, gives a more than credible performance as a fictional character who may or may not be Raft's bosomy wife. Neville Brand [Eaten Alive] is memorable as Al Capone, and Robert H. Harris makes a sympathetic if  exasperated producer, and there are other bits and supporting performances from Julie London as a singer; Margo Moore as a hat check girl; Barrie Chase as the actress, June; Barbara Nichols as a dubbed Texas Guinan; Frank Gorshin as a Raft associate; and Hershel Bernardi as Raft's much-maligned manager. The movie comes to a dead halt during a lengthy performance of a deadly song-and-comedy team. The cliches in the film -- and there are many -- include Raft earnestly complaining that he "can't say these lines!" (-- maybe because he can't act!) No matter what poor Danton played, he always came off as a low-life; he was equally sleazy in Too Much, Too Soon and other films.

Verdict: Poor biopic of someone hardly worth mentioning. **.


angelman66 said...

Have never seen this, and maybe never will watch all the way through, but might be worth it to see Miss Mansfield. I have a soft spot for Jayne...even kind of enjoyed the sodden Single Room Furnished, in which she played multiple roles, and also liked her in Promises, Promises. I have never seen The Wayward Bus, which I heard she was good in. From the biographies I have read, the dumb blonde persona was really an act...she was shrewd, calculating and publicity-seeking, but her plan backfired when she was typecast as the poor man's Marilyn Monroe.
Thanks for the tip, William!

William said...

My pleasure. I think you're dead-on on Mansfield, who could be much better in certain TV shows and films than you would imagine. Too bad she only shows up for about ten minutes or less of the running time!

Neil A Russell said...

Interesting that Neville Brand was cast as Al Capone, I guess his image was ingrained in the heads of audiences since he'd been playing the same role on "The Untouchables" for a couple of years.
I'm going to have to hunt this one up!

Gary R. said...

The high point of Ray Danton's movie career had to be his starring role in 1960's "The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond."

William said...

Gary, I've got that one and I'll be looking at it in the near future.

Neil, I wasn't aware that Neville Brand played Capone on TV. I believe he only has one scene, but he's good.