EXCLUSIVE: Welcome to the 1960s, Las Vegas style. CBS has put in development Ralph Lamb, a drama project set in the early ’60s from Goodfellas writer Nicholas Pileggi based on the true story of Ralph Lamb, a cowboy-turned-Las Vegas sheriff in the ’60s and ’70s. CBS TV Studios, which is producing the project, has assembled a formidable feature team. James Mangold (Walk the Line) is on board to direct. He will executive produce with his producing partner Cathy Konrad and another film producer, Arthur Sarkissian (Rush Hour). Pileggi will co-write the script with TV writer Greg Walker (Without a Trace). Pileggi originally developed the project as a movie at MGM with Sarkissian who got the rights back when MGM went through bankruptcy.
Ralph Lamb was Clark County’s longest-serving and most famous sheriff who was in charge for two decades — from 1961 to 1979. Known as the cowboy sheriff as he was often seen riding his horse, Lamb modernized the department, brought in a modern crime lab, assembled the city’s first SWAT team and oversaw the merger of the Las Vegas and the county law enforcement agencies into the Metropolitan Police Department. But he was probably best known for his tough stance on the Mafia, which still controlled most of the casinos at the time. He famously roughed up Chicago mobster Johnny Rosselli in public and sent him to jail. After making bail, Rosselli’s was never head from again until his corpse was found floating in a 55-gallon oil drum off Miami 10 years later. There has been speculation that that if mobsters were causing too much trouble, Lamb’s men simply killed them, but Lamb has denied such murders have ever occurred. The setting of the Ralph Lamb series is similar to Pileggi’s non-fiction book Casino, about the Mafia’s final glory days in Vegas in the 1970s. Pileggi co-wrote with Martin Scorsese the script for Scorsese’s feature adaptation of Casino, just like the two collaborated on Scorsese’s 1990 classic Goodfellas, based on Pileggi’s book Wiseguy. This is a rare foray into TV for Pileggi, who is attached to a proposed TV series version of Goodfellas. Ralph Lamb brings Mangold back to CBS and CBS TV Studios after directing The 2-2 pilot last season. The pilot went to series, which is executive produced by Robert De Niro, the star of both Casino and Goodfellas. Period dramas set in the ’60s are red-hot at the moment, with NBC’s The Playboy Club and ABC’s Pan Am set to join AMC’s Mad Men this fall.