George Raft

Barry A. Popik Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Jun 4 04:52:00 UTC 1999

"...the word 'gay' was barred from _The Times_ for much of the 70's and 80's."
--_New York Observer_, 7 June 1999, pg. 33, col. 1, in a book review of OUT
York Times_ writers.

    George Raft lived 85 years.  This is from his obituary in the New York
Times, 25 November 1980, pg. 23:

     In 1923, he married the former Grace Mulrooney.  The couple never
obtained a divorce, though they lived together for less than a year.  She
died in 1970 and Mr. Raft had no survivors.

     The Performing Arts Library has three "George Raft" clipping files, but
two are unavailable for two months (or so I was told).  From the clipping
file I read, the NY Post's Earl Wilson wrote on 1 December 1980: "George Raft
had a middle-aged son who was forgotten in the obits."
     Surviving relatives can help.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences has a National Film Information Service that also has clippings.
Perhaps AMPAS knows if Georgie's been "calved," as Cole Porter would say.
    George Raft was born in 1895 to a German father (Ranft) and an Italian
mother.  His underworld involvement in New York City is still not clear, but
it is clear that in the 1920s he was involved in Texas Guinan's celebrated El
Fey Club.
    Raft was an excellent dancer and appeared on Broadway beginning 1925.
His second show was GAY PAREE.
    Raft's signature role was the 1932 film, SCARFACE.  He would always be
remembered as that tough guy who often flipped a coin.
    He did star with several famous women, such as Mae West and Marlene
Dietrich.  However, the roles he turned down--such as CASABLANCA and HIGH
SIERRA--helped establish Humphrey Bogart.
    Not one clipping (in the file I saw) stated that George Raft was "gay."
Not one mentioned the Cole Porter lyric about him.
    I requested "The Lyrics of Cole Porter," and, after a half-hour wait, was
given "The Cole Porter Songbook."  The Songbook contained the 40 "favorite"
Cole Porter songs--"Farming" wasn't there.  The library then informed me (in
lieu of "we're sorry") that it's "open tomorrow."
    All of which still leaves us with these two questions:

    Was George Raft "gay"?
    What influence did Raft and Porter have for the homosexual use of the
word "gay"?

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