Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin

HANDSOME JOHNNY                                 LEE SERVER

A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extraordinary fifty years, from the bloody years of bootlegging in the Roaring Twenties--the last protégé of Al Capone―to the modern era of organized crime as a dominant corporate power. The Mob’s “Man in Hollywood,” Johnny Rosselli introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital―including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures--and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. In a remarkable turn of events, Johnny himself would become a Hollywood filmmaker―producing two of the best film noirs of the 1940s.

Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca’s behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables at the Tropicana and Desert Inn, enjoying the Rat Pack nightlife with pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In the 1960s, in the most unexpected chapter in an extraordinary life, Rosselli became the central figure in a bizarre plot involving the Kennedy White House, the CIA, and an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. Based upon years of research, written with compelling style and vivid detail, Handsome Johnny is the great telling of an amazing tale.


This is one book that is made for the big screen. The author takes you through his life starting from a humble background and how he made his way from Boston to Chicago. Once becoming a low-level gangster and then moving on to the West Coast. Here is where the book starts gaining momentum in the L.AL. The scene first in the prohibition time and the runs that were made to Mexico and back up the coast in Central California. To the floating gaming boats in the harbor outside of Long Beach and such. Growing up in the area the names and places were all familiar along with the different elected officials from the 20s, 30s, and 40s since I have read other books with their names being in them. When you get to the strike and labor issues I have read about those as well in other gangster books. Here in this one, you are really given more of a back story and how Johnny was working with The Outfit in Chicago as well as studio executives. The men that ran the studios and in the other books I read those authors never went into that much detail. You also see all of the famous people he was around in Hollywood and his marriage to an actress. How he really before Bugsy greased the right people in Nevada to have legalized gambling once their floating gaming boats got shut down and then the racing wire that the mob was using. After going to prison he comes back to California and actually produces two movies that make money. He goes on to help run things at different casinos in Vegas for the Outfit. One thing I had always wondered when Howard Hughes bought The Desert Inn was who made the introduction and here you have Johnny who met him many years earlier in Hollywood help with the deal. It would a nice payday for him. What was said about his role or the role of the mob and the Bay of Pigs, and with Old man Kennedy I have either hearing about or reading about from the late 70s and it is always the same story, so that part I believe. The break into the Watergate Hotel by Nixon staff makes more sense since what a lot of people don’t know or forgot was that night two Cuban Nationals were arrested. That is not talked about in this book, but it goes along with why Watergate happened. The sad part was as the old mob was leaving the new guys wanted to get rid of the old guys that were still alive and Johnny fell into that category. His life and this book are made for the movies though. A very good book. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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