MAE WEST told a reporter that she almost married George Raft [26 September 1895 — 24 November 1980], a native New Yorker and an actor most closely identified with his portrayals of gangsters in crime dramas of the 1930s — 1940s.
• • Born George Ranft in Manhattan to Conrad Ranft (who was of German descent), he adopted a slick "tough guy" persona that he would later use in his films.
• • In 1910, little Georgie was living with his sister and parents on West 163rd Street, which was the Washington Heights section.
• • As with the case of Mae West's maternal side, George's mother was also born in Germany; she emigrated to the USA in 1878. Eva Glockner Ranft taught dancing to theatre people — — and gave her son lessons. His smooth tango and dance-floor style led to performances at some of Times Square's most fashionable nightspots. He became part of the stage act of "Texas Guinan and Her Gang."
• • In 1923 George Raft wed Grayce Mulrooney. Though it was soon apparent that this was a bad move, the devout Roman Catholic refused to give him a divorce. Grayce finally died in 1970, when her husband was 75.
• • A former boxer, George Raft also ran errands for Owney — — such as retrieving his box office cut every evening after "Sex" and "Diamond Lil." Raft handled more than cash inside Mae's dressing room, where the dapper New Yorker staged a steamy (private) performance of his own on Broadway.
• • In 1928 Mae West tried to recruit him for the role of Juarez in "Diamond Lil" but George said he "wasn't ready." In truth, his lack of schooling made him worry that he might not be able to remember all the lines and cues for a stage play. As a dancer, he didn't have to worry about memorizing a lot.
• • In 1929 Raft moved to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in Scarface , the role that was originally offered to Jack LaRue, an actor who played opposite Mae West in her 1928 Broadway hit "Diamond Lil." George Raft's convincing portrayal of the gangster led to speculation that he himself was a mobster — — not far from the truth.
• • When the studio was casting Raft's new feature Night after Night, the role of Maudie Triplett, a former gal pal, was to be offered to a well regarded actress and night club personality: Texas Guinan. Raft suggested Mae West for this cameo, and Mae's three little scenes set the so-so film on fire. "Mae stole everything but the cameras," admitted George Raft.
• • One of his final film appearances was in "Sextette" (1978) with Mae West. He played himself in a brief cameo that went like this:
• • MAE WEST: "Why George Raft, I haven't seen you in 20 years. What have you been doing?"
• • GEORGE RAFT: "Oh, about 20 years!"
• • On 24 November 1980, George Raft died from leukemia at age 79 in Los Angeles, California. He was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1932 • •