For those of a certain age (mine) or TCM addicts the actor George Raft is almost a household word. He was a star in mostly B-movies through the 30’s and 40s; an actor whose greatest claim to fame was what he didn’t do. His one-dimensional acting was only overshadowed by his misguided decisions to turn down roles in three films that catapulted Humphrey Bogart to a top place in the cinema history.
In their infinite stupidity Warner Bros. offered Raft the starring roles in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Each time he opted out. Cinephiles are the beneficiary.
Raft was a well-paid property, possibly because of his Rudolph Valentino nose, but not too bright. At one point the studio offered him $10,000 as a buy-out. He misunderstood and wrote them a check for $10,000. The suspicion was that he was functionally illiterate. He may have declined those starring roles because he couldn’t memorize so many lines.
His range as an actor was from tough guy in the mob to tough guy tracking down the mob. He looked like a hoodlum from Hell’s Kitchen in NYC because he was one. In any case if Raft’s life on the big screen was a leaky flotilla he still out-lived Bogey by 27 years proving that longevity does not suffer from bad career-moves.
Not everyone has a George Raft in his life to lead by negative example. I’ve long felt that anyone following my real-estate ventures over the past 60 years would be a multi-millionaire today……if they had done exactly the opposite. It takes a certain Raft-like skill to not have made any money buying and selling property in Southern California.
My first house was purchased for $15,000 and sold five years later for $15,500. It took a year to find a buyer because the 405 freeway would be built behind it. I bought my second house for $30,000 in 1960 and sold it for the same price two years later. It is now worth about half a million. And so it goes. A mountain getaway house we picked in 1986 for $98,000 later rose in value to $350,000 but that was after we sold it for what we bought it for.
I needed a George Raft to show me what not to do. There are people put on this earth for no other purpose. But it takes a Bogart to make something out of it.
I can claim a bit of Bogey also. I took my Letters of Transit. He got Lauren Bacall and I, out of all the gin joints in the world, got Peggy, my Sierra Madre Treasure, my Maltese Falcon, African Queen and Sabrina. We are living happily ever-after in our rent-controlled apartment without a care what the house next door is going for.