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carole lombard 01

Chase-ing Carole?

Posted by vp19 on 2010.02.08 at 00:34
Current mood: exhaustedexhausted
We've frequently discussed the awfulness of the 1976 film "Gable And Lombard" -- but if it's any solace to Carole Lombard's memory, she and Clark Gable aren't the only Hollywood legends whose legacies have not been done justice to through biopics. (Heck, Jean Harlow had two poor movies made about her in the same year, 1965.)

One film legend associated with Lombard who lived to see his life story translated to the big screen probably didn't care that it was filled with inaccuracies -- he was simply happy for the money given him for the film rights. We're speaking of George Raft, who in 1960 was undergoing a slight revival thanks to his supporting role in the Billy Wilder comedy classic "Some Like It Hot."

Raft tried to get Twentieth Century-Fox or Paramount interested, hoping that "Some Like It Hot" castmate Tony Curtis might portray him. Instead, Raft had to settle for Allied Artists, a far lesser company, to buy the rights and for the now-forgotten Ray Danton to play him in a film called "The George Raft Story" in the U.S. and "Spin Of A Coin" in the U.K. (for Raft's famed mannerism in the 1932 "Scarface").



Raft had little, if anything, to do with the script, which sort of whitewashed him. For probable legal reasons, many of the people in his life were turned into composites or pseudonyms; for example, Jayne Mansfield, second-billed, plays someone named Lisa Lang, sort of a stand-in for Betty Grable. Never mind that Mansfield and Grable were famed for decidedly different parts of the anatomy. (Incidentally, Julie London, who's seen as herself in the Mansfield film "The Girl Can't Help It," is here as well, playing a late 1920s New York singer from the time when Raft was a noted hoofer.)

I have never seen "The George Raft Story," but I understand one of the characters may be partially based on Carole. Her name is June, and she's supposedly referred to as "the bolero girl." That could, of course, refer to the dance itself -- but if it's a reference to the movie by that name, it could be a thinly veiled allusion to Lombard.

The character portraying her is someone better known for dancing than acting, though she appeared in more good movies than you may think. Her name is Barrie Chase, most famous these days as Fred Astaire's dance partner on a series of TV specials.



Chase, born in October 1933, was strikingly attractive and a talented, classically-trained dancer, but unfortunately entered the industry at a time when dance musicals were in decline. Still, you can find her (uncredited) in "Daddy Long Legs," "Les Girls" and "Silk Stockings," where she probably caught Astaire's attention. When Chase was hired for the film "Can-Can" in 1960, she seemed ready to become a big star, but she left the production when two of her routines were instead given to Shirley MacLaine.

Nevertheless, you can find her in some good films, albeit in small roles. Two of them are polar opposites -- she's in "Cape Fear" (1962) as a floozy picked up and brutalized by Robert Mitchum...



...and in the gargantuan comedy "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963), where she plays the sexy dancer Dick Shawn's surfer character is infatuated with (much to the dismay of his mother, Ethel Merman).

Chase retired from performing in 1970 to focus on family matters and is still with us. She has compared dancing with Astaire to sculpting with Michelangelo.

As for "The George Raft Story," which also features Frank Gorshin as a character named Moxie, based on the real-life Mack Gray, and the always-charming Barbara Nichols, it can be purchased via download at http://www.wbshop.com/George-Raft-Story%2c-The-+MOD/1000087944,default,pd.html?cgid=ARCHIVE. See it, and perhaps you can answer my question about Chase as Lombard.

Incidentally, a more factual biopic of Raft would be fascinating, given the colorful underworld characters he had ties to and the many women in his life, everyone from Lombard (she reportedly called him, in purely sexual terms, the best lover she ever had) to Grable to Norma Shearer(!). Such a film couldn't have been made during Raft's lifetime. And to be fair, it would also have to show the array of career mistakes Raft made, from being fired on "The Princess Comes Across" when Carole became the focus of the picture to turning down many parts on films that became hits.

Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2010-02-08 08:40 (UTC) (Link)

Barrie Chase

Her father was Borden Chase, a screenwriter of many famous westerns, including Red River. Yes, a new George Raft bio-pic would be fantastic, he had an amazing life. Believe me, I heard some of the stories ! (My uncle was Mack Gray)
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