Born John William Pilbean Goffage in Broken Hill, New South Wales to John Goffage, an English born stock agent, and Australian born Violet Joyce. Gaining the nickname "Chips" as a school boy, Rafferty studied at Parramatta Commercial High School before working in a variety of jobs, including miner, sheep shearer, drover and airman before making his film debut in Ants in His Pants in 1938. Rafferty's onscreen image as a laconic bushman struck a chord with film goers and Rafferty soon became the most popular actor in Australia, appearing in films like Forty Thousand Horsemen, The Rats of Tobruk, The Overlanders and Eureka Stockade.
Rafferty married Ellen "Quentin" Jameson on 28 May 1941, and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force the next day and entertained troops. He was discharged on 13 February 1945, having reached the rank of Flying Officer.
Hollywood also beckoned, and Rafferty appeared in American fare like The Desert Rats, opposite Richard Burton; The Sundowners, with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr; and Mutiny on the Bounty, with Marlon Brando. The most bizarre appearance was with Elvis Presley in Double Trouble in 1967. Initially Rafferty was marketed in the United States as the Australian version of Cary Grant before being allowed to resume playing variations of the laconic bushman role that had served him well thus far.
Rafferty also produced and wrote films for his production company Southern International, which he founded in 1953, although none of these reached the same level of popularity as those he appeared in for other companies. These included producing The Phantom Stockman, producing and writing the original screenplay for King of the Coral Sea (1953), producing and providing the original story for Walk into Paradise (1956) and producing Dust in the Sun (1958) and the Ambitious One (1959).
In addition to his film work, Rafferty also guest starred in a range of television shows, including Gunsmoke, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Tarzan, The Monkees and The Wackiest Ship in the Army (as a different character to the role he played in the movie version).
He also participated in cinema advertisements that were part of a Government campaign in 1957 "Bring out a Briton". The campaign was launched by the Australian Government to increase the number of British migrants entering Australia.
In the 1971 New Years Honours, Rafferty was awarded an MBE for his services to the performing arts
Rafferty collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking down a Sydney street at the age of 62 shortly after completing his role in Wake in Fright. He wife Quentin predeceased him in 1964 and they had no children.
The Oxford Companion to Australian Film refers to Rafferty as "Australia's most prominent and significant actor of the 1940s-60s.
He was a Freemason
|1939||Ants in His Pants||Man in Crowd (uncredited)|
|1940||Dad Rudd, M.P.||Fireman|
|Forty Thousand Horsemen||Jim|
|1944||The Rats of Tobruk||Milo Trent|
|1946||The Overlanders||Dan McAlpine|
|1947||Bush Christmas||Long Bill|
|The Loves of Joanna Godden||Collard|
|1949||Eureka Stockade||Peter Lalor||Released as Massacre Hill in the United States.|
|1950||Bitter Springs||Wally King|
|1952||Kangaroo||Trooper 'Len' Leonard|
|1953||The Desert Rats||Sgt. 'Blue' Smith|
|The Phantom Stockman||The Sundowner||Released in the United States as Return of the Plainsman|
|King of the Coral Sea||Ted King|
|Walk Into Paradise||Steve MacAllister||Released in the United States as Walk into Hell|
|1958||Smiley Gets a Gun||Sergeant Flaxman|
|The Flaming Sword||Long Tom|
|The Wackiest Ship in the Army||Patterson||A comedy, with Rafferty as an Australian Coastwatcher on a secret mission, and Jack Lemmon in charge of the ship|
|1962||Mutiny on the Bounty||Michael Byrne|
|1966||They're a Weird Mob||Harry Kelly|
|1967||Adventures of the Seaspray|
|Double Trouble||Archie Brown|
|1968||Kona Coast||Charlie Lightfoot|
|1970||Skullduggery||Father 'Pop' Dillingham|
|1971||Wake in Fright||Jock Crawford|
|Dead Men Running|