Bugsy Siegel's Unexpected Connection To The Original Scarface Film

Before films like "The Godfather," "Goodfellas," and "Scarface" with Al Pacino came on the scene, American movie-goers had "White Heat," "The Public Enemy," and the 1932 classic, "Scarface." James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and George Raft were all notable figures in these pre-noir crime dramas, with George Raft portraying the typical tough guy who chewed toothpicks and flipped nickels. The popularity of these on-screen bad guys was partly due to the fact that infamous mobsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Seigel were powerful presences in cities like New York and Chicago.

Actors who portrayed these roles can be so convincing, it's easy to wonder how many fictitious mobsters actually had real-life mafia ties. After all, many actors from "The Godfather" — including James Caan, Lenny Montana, and even Robert DeNiro — have rubbed elbows with the mob (via Paste Magazine). As it turns out, further back in film history, gangster Bugsy Siegel, the man who helped create Las Vegas, had unexpected ties to the original "Scarface" film.

Bugsy Siegel and George Raft Met in New York

Bugsy Siegel was born to Jewish Immigrants in 1906. While living in Brooklyn, Siegel began his life of crime on the rough streets of the city, forming the Bugs-Meyer gang with Meyer Lanksy when he was still an adolescent. He soon rose to prominence within a national syndicate run by infamous kingpin Charles "Lucky" Luciano (via History). In his youth, Siegel would meet and become friends with a man who would chart a different path for himself — George Raft.

Raft had a similarly rough start in life, as he grew up in Hell's Kitchen, a particularly crime-ridden part of New York City. He was of German descent and the son of a department store delivery man. Going in a different direction from his father, Raft discovered a fondness and aptitude for dancing. He continued to help with the family business, but was later fired because his deliveries were always late (via IMDb). For reasons that aren't fully known, his family kicked him out of the house, prompting him to drop out of school at age 12 and use his street smarts to survive, according to Den of Geek.

The Dancing Man with Mob Ties

George Raft's career as a dancer took him to Broadway, and at the suggestion of Irish gangster Owney Madden, he soon left Hell's Kitchen for a career in film. His supporting role as a coin-flipping tough guy in "Scarface" earned him a contract with Paramount, and his first starring role in the film "Night After Night." But even with this newfound success in motion pictures, the actor never lost ties with friends like Bugsy Siegel (via Paste Magazine).

When Siegel headed to Las Vegas to work with his crime syndicate, he first stopped in Hollywood to pay a visit to his old friend George Raft. Raft introduced Siegel to celebrities like Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and even studio head Louis B. Mayer. Siegel ended up placing his number two man in Los Angeles, Mickey Cohen, in charge of the Screen Extras Guild, thus solidifying his influence in the Hollywood arena. Raft's loyalty to Siegel was unwavering, and when Siegel was murdered by rivals at his Beverley Hills home in 1947, Raft was one of his mourners (via Den of Geek).