Most people who are familiar with or have heard of Johnny Roselli know him as a high ranking member of organized crime whose primary area of expertise and responsibility was maintaining, maximizing, and increasing the mob's holdings and influence in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Most results credit him with having done so magnificently well, that is until he got caught up in the U.S. Government's CIA involvements in Cuba. Not long after that, mob sanctioned, he met his ultimate demise.
What most people don't realize is that in the mid-to-late 1940's, right after World War II and still as a member of the mob, Roselli was a Hollywood movie producer, ending with at least three known films produced under his belt, with all three in the end returning a healthy profit.
Him having done so, being a producer that is, profit or not, was in his case to ensure he wasn't returned to prison, and an almost must do.
During the war, on December 4, 1942, just three days short of one full year following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roselli, at age 37 was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort McArthur, California. On December 23, 1942, with the rank of private he was transferred to the Fifth Armored Division, Camp Cooke, California, actively serving without incident until March 18, 1943 when he was arrested on federal charges for an alleged crime committed prior to entering the military,
Roselli, along with Chicago mobsters Charles Gioe, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca, Louis Campagna, Phil D'Andrea, Frank Maritote, and Ralph Pierce, in addition to New Jersey hood Louis Kaufman were indicted on federal labor racketeering charges. Nitti committed suicide the day after the indictments were announced and during the trial the charges were dropped against Pierce. The trial began on October 5, 1943 and on December 22, 1943 they were found guilty of conspiracy to extort more than $l million from the motion picture industry. After spending Christmas with their families the seven men were sentenced on New Year's Eve. The five Chicago mobsters and Johnny Roselli received prison terms of 10 years each and a $10,000 fine. Kaufman drew a seven-year sentence and a $10,000 fine. After serving roughly three and a half years all of them were paroled, with Roselli's parole date being metered out August 13, 1947.
After being released Roselli eventually landed on his feet, securing a legitimate cover in Hollywood working as an associate producer for his friend Bryan Foy and his Bryan Foy Productions. Although Roselli's name doesn't show up, i.e., uncredited, it is well known and even documented by several authors and researchers he was an active associate producer in at least three film noirs movies distributed through Eagle Lion Films: He Walked By Night, Canon City, and T-Men.
Bryan Foy, through his Bryan Foy Productions, was an independent film producer who made primarily low budget second feature film noir "B" movies for Eagle-Lion Films. Eagle-Lion in turn offered facilities and equipment with in-kind costs and helped finance some of the costs cash-wise for a fair share of the profits, although producers would have to find their own money for any other costs incurred, and is where and how Roselli came in as an associate producer.
Eagle-Lion had basically started in 1946 the year before Roselli got out, ending up with a substantial loss their first year mainly because of excessive costs for "stars" that didn't have the pulling power to make the films profitable. The star losses caused a major shift in Eagle-Lion's approach, and of which Bryan Foy and the new approach were a perfect match. By 1947–48, the studio had finished fourteen productions with nine in release by April of 1949. Five of those earned a hefty profit with three of those five, T-Men, Canon City, and He Walked By Night, being Roselli affiliated films. Two other movies broke even and two others tanked. However, because of the heavy first year losses the company still owed a chunk of money, necessitating closing down the studio in November 1948, effectively putting Roselli out of a job.
To be a producer though, Roselli had to have money. Following his release from prison authorities knew he had zero legal money and at first no known income or legitimate source of money, especially the type or amount needed to be a film producer. To this day, although it seems clear he got the money, where that money came from is not clear. One way or the other any money had to be legitimate, that is, not tie-backable to the mob or other unsavory sources. Roselli was somehow successful because all attempts by the authorities to snare Roselli in some kind of a trap didn't work. .
Authorities were constantly badgering him from day one after his release from prison trying to find any sort of an infraction to his parole in order to reinstate his incarceration. To keep the authorities and his parole officer off his back he had to constantly show proof of a regular job, or at least working in some capacity in a legitimate "earn money" enterprise. Not everybody, friends or otherwise, with legitimate business concerns were willing to step forward and have someone on their payroll with previous background affiliations as those attributed to Roselli. Bryan Foy was different. He stood by Roselli through thick and thin. Plus, with three winning movies on his side, the studios and Foy could easily grant a successful working status on Roselli even though they weren't bragging too far afield otherwise.
Below are the three movies produced by Roselli in the same order as their release dates:  T-MEN, December 15, 1947;  CANON CITY, June 30, 1948; and  HE WALKED BY NIGHT, November 24, 1948. All three movies are fully accessible by simply clicking the graphics. They are free and online with no sign up. Just click and watch. All are expandable to full screen size.
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"I wasn't even ten years old when my stepmother took me to visit Roselli while he was in a hospital in Santa Barbara. She said he was a longtime friend and was recuperating after having been in the army and wanted to pay her respect. While it is true Roselli had been in the army, he only served until he was arrested on federal charges, found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. On Aug. 13, 1947, after serving roughly three and a half years Roselli was paroled. Roselli had tuberculosis and the time in prison only aggravated the condition. As soon as he was released he immediately put himself under hospital care. Although I didn't know anything about it at the time, when my stepmother and I visited Roselli in the hospital that day he may have been recuperating alright, not from the army, however, but prison."
JOHNNY ROSELLI: MAFIOSO, linked elsewhere
With the studio having folded in November 1948 for financial reasons, except for some possible short term albeit sketchy residuals from profits garnered by the success of the three movies covering him for a few months, Roselli's successful working status quickly began eroding, causing the vulture-like authorities to leave their perches long enough to search for fair game. However, before they were able to even start stripping bare Roselli's still alive carcuss, in stepped another long term friend. My stepmother.
Roselli and my Stepmother had been friends for a very long time. When she became aware of his dilemma she came forward offering what she considered a viable solution. It seems a couple of aeronautical engineers that worked for an aircraft factory called Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego had availed themselves in some manner to one of the more enterprising offers provided by my stepmother. One morning she overheard two women who came into contact with the engineers discussing an invention they were working on.
In the 1940s, at the peak wartime production, the Ryan plant where the engineers worked had 8,500 employees with an annual production run of over $55 million. After the war the workforce dropped to 1,200 with an annual production of only $8 million. Many of those fortunate enough to still find themselves employed were really sitting around not doing much of anything after the war. In 1947, on a lark, to keep busy and to look busy, several of the engineers got together inventing and developing an easily reproducible easily manufactured machine that could make 90 deep-fried mini donuts per minute. Originally designed as a joke, in local tests it turned out to be a huge hit. So much so they started looking for enterprising folk to franchise them.
My stepmother ran the idea past Roselli telling him, even though she was about to embark on what was turning out to be an almost mandatory two-year leave of absence from the U.S., it was a ground floor opportunity. The inventors, although not businessmen, were hot to move forward and she would, before she left, under the counter --- with the inventors saying their association with Roselli was all done on an in-kind cost basis --- spring for all up-front costs with no worry for payback. So too, as I understood it, and I may be wrong about this, but, in that the engineers were overseeing production in the early stages, for every four or five associated with Roselli they would slip in one or two. Roselli would put himself in charge, maybe make a little money, and show he was running a legitimate business besides.
In October of 1950 they, or at least Roselli, formed the Western Tom Thumb Distribution Company having exclusive distribution rights for Tom Thumb donut machines and donut mix in eleven western states. In December of 1952 the venture was dissolved with the start and finish times shifted almost exactly six months after my stepmother's departure and return. A little over a year later, March 7, 1954, his parole expired and Roselli was free to basically do whatever he wanted.
Everybody laughs, but the mini donut venture got Roselli off the hook for quite a while and introduced him for the first time into the possibilities of other types of similar machines, ice machines for example. If you have gone to my Roselli page, cited below, you may recall that Roselli, after becoming entrenched in Las Vegas got the contract to put in and maintained all the ice machines on all of the floors in ALL the hotels in Vegas. People still snicker and make fun of Roselli because of his ice machine connection, thinking it was small time rinky-dink stuff. However, besides being lucrative it gave his so-called work crews and maintenance men under his direct control free and unfettered access to almost every floor in every hotel, basically coming and going as they pleased without being noticed. In turn giving Roselli eyes and ears all over Vegas unlike anybody else. Again, the mini donut machines started it.
The very last time I came in contact with Roselli personally in any fashion was during the late summer of 1973. On August 26 of that year Roselli was transferred from the prison at McNeil Island, located in southern Puget Sound, northwest Washington to the prison on Terminal Island, located in the harbor a few miles south of Los Angeles, California. A month and a half later, on October 5, 1973, he was released from Terminal Island and placed on parole. Before his release I went to see him, by request.
During our conversation Roselli asked how my mother was doing, meaning of course, my ex-stepmother, Roselli always referring to my stepmother as my mother. I told him the close relationship the two of us once had sort of dissipated, widening to such a point that I hadn't seen her in a very long time. He made me promise I would do what I could do reinstate that relationship because family was the most important thing a person could have.
Then Roselli told me something that I never knew and almost fell off the chair when he told me.
He referred back to the time when I turned 21 and bought my first brand new car. The first chance I got I drove to Las Vegas stopping at my stepmother's on the way like I often did to leave a few bucks. I did so because by that time in her life her wealth, power, and influential friends were long gone, she having fallen on hard times after losing everything when her establishment burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances followed by an unrelentless IRS that wouldn't stop badgering her. Except for the 88 acres of sparse, dry desert land she owned and lived on she was all but indigent. When I told her I was on my way to Vegas she wrote a note and told me to give it to Roselli, which I did. Before I left Vegas one of his henchmen handed me a large manilla envelope with one of my stepmother's old aliases written on it. On the way home I stopped by her place and gave her the envelope. When she opened it inside was $5000 in cash.
Roselli said the major reason he helped my mother so generously that day I came to see him in Las Vegas in 1960 or so without a moment of hesitation was because when he himself was having tough times after being released from prison she had, when she was near the top or her game, helped him when he was down and out near the bottom of his game --- while many others were unwilling to do so, most of them basically disappearing into the woodwork.
Roselli was born one Filippo Sacco in 1905. Somewhere along the way, as a young adult, he took the name Johnny Roselli. According to his own accounts he changed his last name to that of an Italian Renaissance artist named Cosimo Rosselli not only for what he was known for as an artist but how the name sounded when it rolled off your tongue. The difference in spelling is because when he first started using it he spelled phonetically
Cosimo Rosselli studied in Florence during the height of the Renaissance the same time Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci were there. Although never as famous as some of his more honored peers, Rosselli was known for a number of highly received works during during that period, most notedly for one of the two most famous of the Last Supper paintings in Europe, his on one of the walls in the Sistine Chapel, the other by Leonardo Da Vinci, painted elsewhere. Even though Johnny Roselli had all the outward appearances of an educated and well cultured man, most of it came in layer years. How or when he became aware of Cosimo Rosselli is not fully known.
Between the time I had seen Roselli sometime in the 1960's and the last time I saw him mentioned elsewhere, I had traveled to Europe a couple times and of which one of those trips I visited the Sistine Chapel and saw Cosimo"s work of The Last Supper, although at the time, yet to see Leonardo's version. When I saw Roselli that last time I told him about my trip and that because of him I personally spent a large amount of extra time observing Cosimo"s masterpiece. After telling him how beautiful and masterful it was and could see why he selected the artist for his own name, I somehow had the feeling that everything melted away and that through me he had actually seen it himself.
ROSSELLI: LAST SUPPER--------------------------------------------------------------DA VINCI: LAST SUPPER--------
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JOHNNY ROSELLI DOSSIER
MAFIA: LOS ANGELES SATELLITE
JOHNNY ROSELLI: MILITARY SERVICE
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS AND THE MOB
JOHNNY ROSELLI, SLOT MACHINES, AND THE FBI
PHYLLIS DAVIS CIRCA 1980
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.