MGM will make a movie based on the experiences of Ralph Lamb, a cowboy who became sheriff of Las Vegas and cleaned up the town when casinos became big business.
“Casino” scribe Nick Pileggi is writing the script and Arthur Sarkissian is producing.
The pic is likely the first one initiated personally by studio owner Kirk Kerkorian, who crossed paths with Lamb many times as owner of the MGM Grand and a handful of other casinos.
Kerkorian suggested the film to MGM chairman-CEO Alex Yemenidjian. They brought in “Rush Hour” producer Sarkissian, who had just reupped his first-look deal at MGM. Next came Pileggi, who sparked immediately to the job. Lamb was apparently the guy most feared by the mobsters Pileggi interviewed for “Casino.”
“Imagine 10 million people with a lot of money descending on this tiny town, and every thief and crook showing up to rob them,” Pileggi said. “This cowboy becomes sheriff and brings law and order to town. He is about as close to Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’ as you’ll find.”
Lamb attacked wolves
Kerkorian and other casino owners loved Lamb. Before he arrived, the high-rollers often got robbed. “Gaming went from small-town to an industry that brought millions in tax and sales tax money,” Pileggi said. “It would have gone bust if this town, which had only 8,000 residents, couldn’t handle the necessities.”
Pileggi said Lamb kept the tough guys in check, making criminals register and putting a ticking clock on their visits. Lamb also got casino jobs for many Vegas residents, something that not only helped the local economy but gave him a good grip on everything that happened in town. He spent 18 years as sheriff.
Lamb said he trusted Kerkorian and Yemenidjian with his story because he knew them from Vegas, and he hit it off with Sarkissian and Pileggi.
Lamb’s most famous brawl came when Chicago mobster Johnny Rosselli tried to set up shop in Vegas. Rosselli, who started under Al Capone, showed little respect for authority and Lamb took it as a chance to let the gangsters know they were not above the law.
“He said he was a movie producer, but he was shaking people down and so I muscled him a bit and threw him out of the Desert Inn, physically,” Lamb said. “GQ wrote that I slapped the cologne off him, which was pretty much true, I guess. The sad part was, he ended up being found dead years later in an oil drum off the coast of Florida, with his legs cut off.”