Monday, July 14, 2008

There's Only You and Me and We Just Disagree

A candid shot from the set of Manpower (1941) as Edward G. Robinson tries to tear George Raft a new one. According to accounts from the set the two absolutely hated each other and during this rehearsal in which Raft had been a little too forceful with Robinson in a scene where he spins him around, Robinson went nuts and started throwing punches at Raft until members of the crew successfully pulled him off. Of course, I wasn't there so I can't say who was right and who was wrong but I do know this: Robinson was well liked by most actors in Hollywood where you can find stories on him. The same cannot be said for Raft. I've got a lot of old movie books and I've read a few more and the words "Raft" and "problem" often end up together on the same page.

Raft had a fine career nonetheless but when I hear stories of how he turned down parts in High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca and if only he'd taken those roles he would have been a legendary star and Humphrey Bogart (who, incidentally, Raft also couldn't stand - he couldn't stand a lot of people it turns out) would never have become one I just don't buy it. Sometimes actors careers don't take off because they make mediocre movies or have one flop after another or just don't exude the necessary charisma. And sometimes, people just stop working with them. I'm not saying Raft was a total jerk, but from the accounts of fellow actors, he wasn't a pleasure to work with.

By contrast take Humphrey Bogart. Watching a documentary on him years ago there was a part where Jose Ferrer was talking about Stanley Kramer, the youngish producer (41) of The Caine Mutiny. Kramer's main job it turned out, much to his chagrin, was making sure Bogart stayed sober enough and healthy enough to make each day's shoot. Ferrer said one night while they were out drinking Bogart started going off on Kramer, asking why this annoying man was always around making a nuisance of himself. Kramer got irritated and said, "I'm here to make sure egotistical, prematurely aging actors do their job!" Bogart laughed like hell and said, "Alright, alright I'll go to bed." And he did. Ferrer said Bogart loved Kramer after that. With Raft, he would've been added to the "enemies" list. Que sera, sera.