Thursday, February 26, 2015
THE GEORGE RAFT STORY
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. **.