Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Bath with George Raft

Famous for being Mae West's screen debut, the vastly underrated "Night After Night" (1932) also was George Raft's first starring vehicle. Later he would become associated mostly with gangster roles, a la James Cagney, but initially his studio planned to make him the next Valentino.

Thus, his first starring scene is one in which he slowly strips down out of his pajamas and steps quite obviously naked into a bath tub, where he lounges, scrubbing himself and chatting with his valet.

So much sex appeal has George Raft in the film that no less than three women are frantic for his bod. In desperation, one pulls a gun, another throws a violent tantrum and wrecks his bedroom, and the third - Mae West - has her own special way of coping which I'll get to in a minute.

This pre-code film also has distinct homoerotic overtones in the relationship between Raft and his male valet, who is also his lifelong friend, confidant, and watchdog. They share a physical intimacy in the form of affectionate wrestling until the valet is giggling and gasping, and also in the way the valet cares for George's dressing and appearance, tugging and patting and smoothing fabric over George's shoulders and backside.

Further, there is an obvious lesbian subtext. When Mae West is thrown over by George Raft, the pan-sexual Mae takes the jilting in stride and instead ends up in bed with a drunken and frowzy Alison Skipworth!

If you're patient through the deliberate pacing at the start of "Night After Night," the film will reward with some hilarious scenes, as well as some biting commentary on society and its sexual mores.


  1. I REALLY like this film. You are right about the pacing at the top--but I love watching the freedom in this and other pre-code films. And you have a lot of intersting actors--doing the kind of roles they do best. Roscoe Karns (the valet) is a fave of mine...a long career on stage before constant work as a great character actor in Hollywood.

  2. This is definitely one I need to check out. Like FelchingPisser, I'm a huge fan of pre-code films. There was a freedom of sexuality and a sense of play with the body that is missing even now, years after the code was dropped when we are supposedly sexually liberated. Thanks for showing this film.


  3. Now this has got my attention and must go and check it out!as a must see movie. As the other guys commented...a film before it's time it seems with lots of body touching between the two men.
    George Raft sure does look sexy and showing off lots of skin by the picture's you have posted and I must say he does have a diffrent handsomeness than the look of say,Jeffrey Hunter and some of the other striking handsome men of the time, don't you think.

  4. FelchingPisser, I'm so glad you know and like this film. Few critics seem to appreciate it - I think it's terrifically underrated.

  5. Ace, Yes I also greatly appreciate pre-code films. They had a frank, mature approach to sexuality - a true adult's viewpoint. Now, although Hollywood films may be more visually explicit, their attitude toward sexuality is generally pretty juvenile.

  6. Wally, Definitely a different embodiment of masculinity here... George Raft exudes his maleness from the inside, while outside he is less muscular and more fine-featured.

  7. I'm glad I'm not the only one who caught the deliciously homo interplay between the gorgeous Raft and his nervous valet. I LOVED this movie, and as soon as I'm not broke, I'm going to buy it on DVD. (Though admittedly, it'll be less for Raft and more for my idol, West. By the way, I glad you pointed out the lesbian subtext as well, which gets a bit of play elsewhere in the film if you know where to look ;)

    Can I just say how ecstatic I am that you've made this site? An appreciation of masculine beauty is sorely missing in this culture, to such an extent that "masculine" and "beauty" are often seen as being in contradistinction to one another. The more we bring these two concepts together, the less that will be, until someday it isn't even remotely unusual. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

    -- CoronerCountess

  8. Hi CoronerCountess, Thanks so much for your comments and good wishes!
    And by the way, like you, I'm also a big Mae West fan.