Here are 10 things you should know about George Raft, born 119 years ago today. Raft is arguably as well known today for his association with mobsters as he is for his movies.
Here are 10 things you should know about Paul Muni, born 125 years ago today. The star of stage and screen was celebrated for his versatility; early in his career, some even compared him to Lon Chaney.
Actor George Raft was born George Ranft 115 years ago today in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City. Raft is perhaps as well known today for the movie roles he turned down as those he accepted. Here are 10 GR Did-You-Knows:
- His parents were of German descent.
- From his youth, Raft took a great interest in dancing, and his skills as a hoofer would serve him well as he found his way as a performer. In his salad days, he made money performing (and dancing with the lady patrons) at establishments such as Maxim’s, El Fey (with Texas Guinan) and various other night spots.
- He married Grace Mulrooney, who was several years his senior, when he was 22. They separated early on, but never divorced (perhaps because Raft’s family was Catholic), and he supported her until she died in 1970.
- Raft was known to run with a pretty rough crowd. He was childhood friends with gangsters Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel; Siegel stayed at Raft’s home in Los Angeles when the gangster first moved there.
- Raft reportedly turned down the lead roles in High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Double Indemnity (1944). The first three of those roles proved to be great successes for Humphrey Bogart.
- Raft appeared in Mae West‘s first (Night after Night, 1932) and last (Sextette, 1978) pictures.
- In James Cagney‘s autobiography, the actor wrote that Raft prevented Cagney from being rubbed out by the mob. Cagney was president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time, and the story goes that he was adamant the Mafia wouldn’t become active in the union’s affairs, which was not a popular stance in certain circles.
- Raft was a lifelong baseball fan, attending the World Series for 25 years in a row in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
- As a teen, Raft was a bat-boy for the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees).
- In the late 1950s, Raft worked as a celebrity greeter at the Hotel Capri, a Mafia-owned casino in Havana. He was there in 1959 when rebels stormed Havana to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Happy birthday, George Raft, wherever you may be!
Actor Paul Muni was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund in what is now the Ukraine 121 years ago today. Here are 10 PM Did-You-Knows:
- Both of his parents were professional actors in the Yiddish theatre.
- Muni grew up speaking Yiddish. When he was seven, his family left Austria-Hungary and settled in Chicago.
- Beginning in 1908, Muni spent four years with New York’s Yiddish Art Theatre before moving on to work for the next 14 years with other Yiddish theatres in NYC.
- His first English-language role—and Broadway debut—was in a 1926 production of a play called We Americans. Though just 31 years of age, Muni portrayed an elderly man.
- Muni began his motion picture career in 1929, but continued to alternate between the Broadway stage and Hollywood.
- Muni, along with James Dean, is one of just two actors to receive an Oscar nomination for his first film role (The Valiant, 1929) and his last (The Last Angry Man, 1959). Muni totaled six Oscar nominations, winning once (Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Story of Louis Pasteur, 1936).
- Muni’s nickname was Munya.
- Muni suffered his entire life with a rheumatic heart.
- Muni turned down the role of Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941). The part eventually went to Humphrey Bogart.
- In 1956, Muni won the Tony Award for Best Actor (Dramatic) for his role as Henry Drummond in the play Inherit the Wind.
Happy birthday, Paul Muni, wherever you may be!