Monday, October 26, 2009

George Raft (1974), Lewis Yablonski.

Don Cherry and I have what I'd guess to be one thing in common:  we love the Hollywood biographies.  I am not a big drooler for George Raft, I only came to know him through a couple of recently viewed movies.  He seemed odd:  very taciturn, almost a ghost-like presence; all I knew is that he had a reputation for being mobbed up.

This book is bizarre - not only does Raft make Frank Sinatra look like a second-generation hanger-on, he's a full-on caricature of any "Ocean's Eleven" type guys.  So wounded by feelings of inadequacy, Raft makes bad decision after bad decision, building to a paralysis that prevents him from compromising the Raft image.  Unable to take on a role that he thinks will tarnish his image, countless opportunities go to Bogart, who turns them into iconic movie performances!  Unable to compromise on his flashy image by wearing slightly less expensive suits when the big roles stop coming, he fritters away the money he earned as one of the top stars of the 1930s. Yes, he's tightly involved in financial projects undertaken by guys like Bugsy Siegel.   No, he never seems to make a dime off any of it.

This is a genre I love:  a non-academic bio based on tons of interviews by a loving fan or friend.  Even though the author admits Raft was one of his childhood heroes, and backtracks a bit for him, the fact that Raft was deeply screwed up is not hidden.  I probably could have done without the description of the unending stream of hookers Raft went through, though.

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