George Raft’s Colony

In the late Sixties, I worked for quite a time in the Head Office of Murco Petroleum which was then located at 65 Grosvenor Street London W1. Each morning I came in by train to Victoria Station and walked up to the Office. The last part of the walk was through Berkeley Square and at the very Southern end of it was George Raft’s Colony – a Night Club / Casino right in the very heart of Mayfair. Being a film fan I would look at this each day – not that I ever went in as I don’t think that I could have afforded to even if I had wanted – but with the name George Raft above the impressive entrance, I was always intrigued..

When I visit London, as I often do, I always wander around this lovely area on central London – my favourite part really.

George Raft, the famous American actor was really known for his leading roles in Warner Brothers gangster films of the 1930s and 40s, and he lent his name and was the front-man and greeter for George Raft’s Colony sporting club, a Las Vegas-type casino in London.

His title there was “Casino Director.” He also had a financial interest in the club. He was eventually barred from the United Kingdom due to his underworld associations – during the time that I was working down there

When the news BELOW was released I was still working in Grosvenor Street

Feb. 02, 1967 – George Raft, the veteran Hollywood film actor, was ”speechless” in Hollywood today, after being told of reports that he was not to be re-admitted to Britain when he returns there from the United States. The report said it was a decision taken by Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, after consideration of the issues involved in the expansion of gambling in London. Mr. Raft, now 71, who runs the Berkeley Square Colony, had gone to America for a holiday and was expected back the following week. He said in Hollywood today: ”I am quite shaken. I was not notified of this decision nor any inkling that it was pending. He denied he had any connection with gangsters – outside of the film world. He put it down to his ”image” as a screen mobster in over 100 films.

George Raft’s Colony in Berkeley Square

In 1967 he was a director of the Colony Club in London – it still has all the history, panache and style that you would associate with George Raft

Many actors went to England in the 1950’s and did a lot of these B films, which are done with a limited budget. Among the actors who came over were Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Preston, Dane Clark, and Cesar Romero also Larry Parkes and Wayne Morris

ABOVE – ‘Escape Route’ George Raft and Sally Gray

A few days earlier George Raft had arrived in England on the Queen Mary Liner

In June 1952 George Raft had made a film in England –‘Escape Route’ 1951 and had also gone up to Glasgow to visit a famous tailor in the City

‘Escape Route’ 1951 – in the US the title was ‘I’ll Get You’ for some reason – with George Raft, had some good atmosphere – with pictures of a bombed-out London and also some nice interiors.

Here he is pictured with fellow Hollywood star Herbert Lom and Scottish Comedian Jimmy Logan, BELOW

June 1952, George Raft was in Glasgow to open a new branch of Connell’s, the menswear store frequented by many stars of stage and screen when they were in the city.

Cesar Romero, singer Billy Eckstine, Donal O’Connor and Abbott and Costello were all known to have popped in to the Union Street tailors shop.

This time, George Raft’s arrival was the reason why the crowds turned out in force.

He was a big star at the time. Many years later he was banned from Britain – 1967 for fronting a gambling club in London called The Colony.

Raft’s visit had “disorganised traffic in Glasgow centre of the city” and had to be controlled by “foot and mounted police” after waiting two hours for his arrival.

“When his car arrived, hundreds of women, cheering and screaming, rushed forward to mob it,” continued the report, which explained that George Raft had ‘flown from London to Renfrew by ‘special ‘plane’.

It continued: “Police held the crowds back while Mr Raft walked a few yards from his car to the entrance of the shop. Amid cheers he cut the broad white ribbon barring the entrance and accepted a gold key tied with Gordon tartan ribbons.”

Much later and at the time he was active with the Colony he made the film ‘Five Golden Dragons’ 1967. It was a British Film but much of it filmed in Hong Kong

This is an interesting Double Feature
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