Sonny Grosso  

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Salvatore Anthony "Sonny" Grosso (July 21, 1930 – January 22, 2020) was a movie and television producer and New York City police detective, noted for his role in the case immortalized in the book and film versions of the French Connection.


The French Connection

Grosso and his partner Eddie Egan, and other NYPD detectives broke up an organized crime ring in 1961 and seized 112 pounds of heroin, a record amount at the time. The investigation was the subject of a book by Robin Moore and a five-time Academy Award-winning motion picture in 1971 (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Film Editing and Best Writing).

Egan and Grosso were technical advisers to the movie and played small roles. The movie was highly fictionalized, and a character based on Grosso, called "Buddy Russo", was played by actor Roy Scheider, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Like the character, Grosso's nickname as a detective was "Cloudy." This was due to his pessimism, as well as the fact that "Cloudy" is the opposite of "Sonny."

Grosso recounted that his cop buddy, Egan, was nicknamed "Bullets" because he was "always firing his revolver in the air" for effect but "Egan was the bravest cop I ever knew." Grosso continued the story, adding, "My beloved mother Lillian also had an insightful take on Egan, and would warn, 'I know Eddie's going to make sure you come home every night. But what I worry about is that one time, Egan might not come home.' Her comment was profound. And my pal Eddie was the greatest cop I ever worked with. God rest his soul!"

Other work

Starting as a technical adviser on movies like The French Connection and The Godfather, while he was still working for the NYPD, Grosso learned the craft of filmmaking from people like Oscar winners Philip D'Antoni, William Friedkin and Francis Ford Coppola. While a technical advisor, he also played small roles in such groundbreaking movies as The French Connection, The Godfather and The Seven-Ups.

In 1976, Grosso retired from the NYPD, and subsequently became a movie and TV producer, involved in many productions including 1970s cop shows like Kojak and Baretta. Grosso actually helped revolutionize the role of the technical adviser/consultant for cop shows and movies, with film critic James Monaco once observing, "Sonny Grosso has had a hand in most of the major cop films and television series of the 1970s." Monaco also jokingly speculated that someday scholars would discuss "Grossovian subtexts" about the period’s police dramas.

From 1985 to 1989, Grosso also produced a TV series (filmed in Canada and re-broadcast on CBS) entitled Night Heat, starring Jeff Wincott and Scott Hylands.

In October 2007, Grosso produced a limited engagement performance of Richard Vetere's Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story with The Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra, Louis Panacciulli conducting. The play was directed by Charles Messina and co-produced by Phil Ramone. It premiered at The Tilles Center in Greenvale, New York.

Personal life

Grosso was born in 1930 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Moore wrote in The French Connection, that "[he] was an only son with three sisters. When his father, a truck driver, died suddenly at thirty-seven, Sonny, the eldest, became the head of the family at fifteen. He treated his sisters with fatherly care." Grosso recalled, "Even after our dad's untimely passing, our beloved mother, Lillian, never looked at another guy and would always put us first. She would act as if it was always 'Blue Skies' and 'My Blue Heaven,' as her favorite performer Bing Crosby used to sing."

Grosso died on January 22, 2020 in Manhattan following an illness at the age of 89.


Year Title Role Notes
1971 The French Connection Clyde Klein
1972 The Godfather Cop Outside Hospital Uncredited
1973 The Seven-Ups Counterfeit Money Courier Uncredited
1975 Report to the Commissioner Detective #1
1977 Contract on Cherry Street Rhodes
1980 Cruising Det. Blasio

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sonny Grosso" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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