|Born:||September 26, 1895|
|Location:||New York City, New York|
|Deathplace:||Los Angeles, California|
|Yearsactive:||1929 - 1980|
Raft was born George Ranft in Hell's Kitchen, New York City to German immigrant Conrad Ranft and his wife Eva Glockner. A boyhood friend of gangster Owney Madden, he admittedly narrowly avoided a life of crime.
As a young man he showed aptitude in dancing, and this, with his elegant fashion sense, let him work as a dancer in New York City nightclubs. He became part of the stage act of Texas Guinan and his success led him to Broadway where he again worked as a dancer. He worked in London as a chorus boy in the early 1920s.
Vi Kearney, later a dancer in shows for Charles Cochran and Andre Charlot, was quoted as saying:
"Oh yes, I knew him (George Raft). We were in a big show together. Sometimes, to eke out our miserable pay, we'd do a dance act after the show at a club and we'd have to walk back home because all the buses had stopped for the night by that time. He'd tell me how he was going to be a big star one day and once he said that when he'd made it how he'd make sure to arrange a Hollywood contract for me. I just laughed and said: 'Come on, Georgie, stop dreaming. We're both in the chorus and you know it.' [Did he arrange the contract?] Yes. But by that time I'd decided to marry... [Was he (Raft) ever your boyfriend?] How many times do I have to tell you ...chorus girls don't go out with chorus boys."
In 1929, Raft moved to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in Scarface (1932), and Raft's convincing portrayal led to speculation that Raft was a gangster. Due to his life-long friendship with Owney Madden, Raft was a friend or acquaintance of several other crime figures, including Bugsy Siegel and Siegel's old friendMeyer Lansky. When Gary Cooper's romantic escapades put him on one gangster's hit list, Raft reportedly interceded and persuaded the mobster to spare Cooper. 
In the early 1930s, Tallulah Bankhead nearly died following a 5-hour hysterectomy for gonorrhea she claimed she got from Raft. Only 70-pounds when she was able to leave the hospital, she said to the doctor, "Don't think this has taught me a lesson!"
He was one of the three most popular gangster actors of the 1930s, with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Raft and Cagney worked in Each Dawn I Die (1939) as convicts in prison. He advocated for the casting of his friend Mae West in a supporting role in his first film as leading man, Night After Night (1932), which launched her movie career. Raft appeared the following year in Raoul Walsh's period piece The Bowery as, "Steve Brodie, the first man to jump off Brooklyn Bridge and survive, with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray and Pert Kelton.
Some of his other films include If I Had A Million (1932), in which he played a forger hiding from police, suddenly given a million dollars with no place to cash the check, Bolero (1934; a rare role as a dancer rather than a gangster), Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (1935) (remade in 1942 with Alan Ladd in Raft's role), Souls at Sea (1937) with Gary Cooper, two with Humphrey Bogart: Invisible Stripes (1939) and They Drive by Night (1940), each with Bogart in supporting roles, and Manpower (1941) with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich (the memorable posters said, "Robinson - He's mad about Dietrich. Dietrich - She's mad about Raft. Raft - He's mad about the whole thing"). Although Raft received third billing in Manpower, he played the lead.
1940-41 proved Raft's career apex. He went into professional decline over the next decade, in part due to turning down some of the best roles in history, notably High Sierra (he didn't want to die at the end) and The Maltese Falcon (he didn't want to remake the 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon with a rookie director); both roles transformed Humphrey Bogart from supporting player to a major force in Hollywood in 1941. Raft was also reported to have turned down Bogart's role in Casablanca (1942), although according to Warner Bros. memos, this story is apocryphal.
Approached by director Billy Wilder, he refused the lead role in Double Indemnity (1944), which led to the casting of Fred MacMurray in a classic that would have revived Raft's career. His lack of judgment (he was more or less illiterate, which made judging scripts problematic), combined with the public's growing distaste for his apparent gangster lifestyle, ended his career as a leading man in mainstream movies. He satirized his gangster image with a well-received performance in Some Like it Hot (1959), but this did not lead to a comeback, and he spent the remainder of the decade making films in Europe. He played a small role as a casino owner in Ocean's Eleven (1960) opposite the Rat Pack. His final film appearances were in Sextette (1978), reunited with pal Mae West in a cameo (West: "Why George Raft, I haven't seen you in 20 years. What have you been doing?" Raft: "Oh, about 20 years!"), and The Man with Bogart's Face (1980).
Ray Danton played Raft in The George Raft Story (1961).
Raft has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Television at 1500 Vine St.
Raft married Grayce Mulrooney, several years his senior, in 1923, long before his stardom. The pair separated soon thereafter, but Grayce, a devout Catholic, refused to grant Raft a divorce, and he remained married to and supported her until her death in 1970. A romantic figure in Hollywood, Raft had love affairs with Betty Grable and Mae West. He stated publicly that he wanted to marry Norma Shearer, with whom he had a long romance, but his wife's refusal to allow a divorce eventually caused Shearer to end the affair. 
Raft died from leukemia, aged 85, in Los Angeles, California on November 24, 1980. Two days earlier, Mae West died. Their bodies were in the same mortuary at the same time. Raft was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.