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Slick Hair and Dancer's Shoes: Where are George Raft's Paramount Films?


GaryA
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Years ago, when I was in high school during the mid-1960s, I would anxiously comb TV Guide for any gangster or war movie scheduled to be shown on a given night.  The likeliest places for these broadcasts were the syndicated stations and occasionally, PBS, the latter of which I preferred because the films would be aired without commercial interruption.  I was particularly fervent about George Raft's 1930s Paramount film oeuvre, where he honed his distinctive, slick gangster personal to a tee.  I was able to catch most of his work of that era, from "Dancers in the Dark" to "Every Night at Eight" to "Rumba" and beyond.  Many of those films encompassed the so-called pre-code era, when he rose in stature to being one of the highest paid actors at the studio.  Needless to say, I loved his films and, as a student at an art school, would draw his caricature all over my notebooks and drawing pads.

And then, one day, his films of that era wasn't being shown anymore.

A few months ago, TCM did a retrospective of his films but sadly (to me, at least), it only covered his work after he had signed up with Warner Bros. in 1938 ("You and Me") and into the '50s and '60s.  If you were new to George Raft's cinema resume, you would have no idea that he began his career in a Texas Guinan short at the end of the 1920s or that he was an accomplished "hoofer"--a professional dancer, to you young Golden Age Hollywood neophytes out there.  The hosts of the month-long retrospective gave no indication that an important part of Raft's filmography was noticeably (again, to me) absent--the films that, in essence, made George Raft a star (even more so than films like "Each Dawn I Die, " Warner Bros., 1939).  I found that odd, given their usually detailed and informative discussions about films of that era.  So why have these films stopped being shown?

Recently I was able to catch a showing of "Rumba," submitted on YouTube by a Japanese Hollywood movie fan.  I am grateful to the guy.  It seems that the only way I will be able to see these and other rare films is through the generosity of foreign film buffs.  And, yes, I did check with IMDb.  The site provides a listing of Raft's Paramount films but no opportunity to view them; apparently almost none of them made it into DVD format.  Which means, of course, that almost none of Rafts Paramount films can be purchased on Amazon.

Can any fervent gangster film buffs shed some light into this?  It's been over a half-century and I am still a George Raft fan.

 

Gary

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27 minutes ago, GaryA said:

Years ago, when I was in high school during the mid-1960s, I would anxiously comb TV Guide for any gangster or war movie scheduled to be shown on a given night.  The likeliest places for these broadcasts were the syndicated stations and occasionally, PBS, the latter of which I preferred because the films would be aired without commercial interruption.  I was particularly fervent about George Raft's 1930s Paramount film oeuvre, where he honed his distinctive, slick gangster personal to a tee.  I was able to catch most of his work of that era, from "Dancers in the Dark" to "Every Night at Eight" to "Rumba" and beyond.  Many of those films encompassed the so-called pre-code era, when he rose in stature to being one of the highest paid actors at the studio.  Needless to say, I loved his films and, as a student at an art school, would draw his caricature all over my notebooks and drawing pads.

And then, one day, his films of that era wasn't being shown anymore.

A few months ago, TCM did a retrospective of his films but sadly (to me, at least), it only covered his work after he had signed up with Warner Bros. in 1938 ("You and Me") and into the '50s and '60s.  If you were new to George Raft's cinema resume, you would have no idea that he began his career in a Texas Guinan short at the end of the 1920s or that he was an accomplished "hoofer"--a professional dancer, to you young Golden Age Hollywood neophytes out there.  The hosts of the month-long retrospective gave no indication that an important part of Raft's filmography was noticeably (again, to me) absent--the films that, in essence, made George Raft a star (even more so than films like "Each Dawn I Die, " Warner Bros., 1939).  I found that odd, given their usually detailed and informative discussions about films of that era.  So why have these films stopped being shown?

Recently I was able to catch a showing of "Rumba," submitted on YouTube by a Japanese Hollywood movie fan.  I am grateful to the guy.  It seems that the only way I will be able to see these and other rare films is through the generosity of foreign film buffs.  And, yes, I did check with IMDb.  The site provides a listing of Raft's Paramount films but no opportunity to view them; apparently almost none of them made it into DVD format.  Which means, of course, that almost none of Rafts Paramount films can be purchased on Amazon.

Can any fervent gangster film buffs shed some light into this?  It's been over a half-century and I am still a George Raft fan.

 

Gary

Welcome to TCM City. I love George Raft. I find him to be the most fluid performer of his era, appealing to both men and women (in a non-threatening way). He exudes sex appeal, charm and distinct personality -- as well as talents besides acting, such as dancing which you mentioned. The 1942 Universal film BROADWAY has him playing himself, as a Broadway hoofer. 

It was an accomplishment for TCM to finally honor him last August for Summer Under the Stars. And yes, as you indicated, they stuck mostly to his WB output and his output at RKO. The Turner library consists primarily of MGM/UA, WB and RKO fare.

I agree that it would be nice to see more of his Paramount films, a sentiment echoed re: other Paramount stars who get short shrift on TCM's airwaves.

My favorite pairing for him is with Joan Bennett...they're great in a Columbia screwball comedy called SHE COULDN'T TAKE IT (1935), UA's gangster drama THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY (1940) and 20th Century Fox's Technicolor musical NOB HILL (1945).

Screen Shot 2021-05-28 at 1.08.09 PM4a72e-screen2bshot2b2016-08-182bat2b5-19-422bpm.pngScreen Shot 2021-05-28 at 1.12.24 PM

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You can find him in The Bowery (1933) on YouTube. It's a great, snappy (20th Century Fox) Raoul Walsh film of gay 1890s New York. Raft does a little bit of dancing early in the film, as he enters a saloon the name of which must not be mentioned. But you will never, ever find this movie on TCM. (The opening shot will tell you why)!

You can see Raft dancing into the club at around the 14:10 point, then dancing briefly with Pert Kelton. I think the film is public domain, so I post the link here.

 

 

 

 

 

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