Angelo Rossitto For Mayor Of Los Angeles – KRKD-Los Angeles – March 28, 1941 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Unless you’re a film buff whose appreciation of movies goes back to the 1920s, the name Angelo (Angi) Rossitto will probably not ring many bells. Less, if you have no idea about politics of that period in L.A. or think the legendary film Chinatown was based on someone’s very vivid imagination.
Angelo (or Angi as he’s referred to in this 1941 broadcast) was a well known character actor from the days of Silent films who continued to work all the way up until his death in 1991. He was probably best known for his role in Freaks, a 1932 horror film which featured Rossitto prominently, primarily because of his size – he really was 35 inches tall, which landed him in a number of roles throughout his career calling for a character diminutive in size and sadistic in demeanor.
In 1941 he was running for Mayor, most likely as a publicity stunt. The fascinating part of this “campaign address” (which there was only one) are the problems facing a city like Los Angeles which was far from as populated then as it is now – congestion, housing, bureaucracy, and rapid transit. There was talk about a Subway in L.A. in 1941 – freeways were being considered as much as bigger thoroughfares (like Wilshire Boulevard and Olympic) to ease traffic. Making some streets one-way. And Rossitto’s biggest selling point; a Lottery. The Lottery, in his pitch, would solve all the financial ills of the city, bringing millions to the economic coffers. Also interesting is how, even in 1941, there was a movement afoot to avoid and bypass Downtown L.A. – even then there was movement afoot to spread out; in every direction but to the center of town.
Taking everything into consideration – a growing city, a city known for its climate, a mecca for entertainment and soon, one of the major centers for war industry, it’s interesting to consider that Los Angeles, even in the context of this rather half-hearted campaign address, talks about issues that have plagued this town seemingly forever and continue to plague Los Angeles to this day.
We had a comprehensive rapid transit (streetcar), but weren’t warm to the idea of a subway. Our Rapid transit was dismantled in the early 1960s and it took almost 40 years to go back to a version of where we were in 1941.
Needless to say, even as a potential spoof, there is a lot of truth in this 15 minute (less if you’re looking at a stopwatch) talk by a character actor on the shortcomings of a city like L.A.
Remember, it was almost 80 years ago.