Daughter of Allen Smiley, Only Witness to Bugsy Siegel's Murder, Wrote Memoir

Allen Smiley worked for around 10 years of his life with Cecil B. DeMille, "a founding father of the Hollywood film industry, and the most commercially successful producer-director in cinema history," as noted in The Art of the Hollywood Epic biography.

But Smiley decided it was more worthwhile to join with Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, who'd installed himself in Los Angeles to get pieces of various action for his New York friends (and himself).

Despite what one high-profile biography says about Smiley growing up in Manhattan with Siegel and Meyer Lanksy, his daughter told us otherwise.

Allen Smiley was only witness to Bugsy Siegel's murder
Allen Smiley on left; Luellen on right; unidentified woman in middle.
Allen Smiley was born Aaron Smehoff in Kiev. His family immigrated to Canada and settled in Winnipeg when Allen was five years old, his daughter writes in her memoir, Cradle of Crime: A Daughter's Tribute.

"Dad met Ben in 1937," Ms. Smiley told us. "Dad spent one year in New York after running away from home in Winnipeg. He moved to Los Angeles in 1927."

Some books have implicated Smiley in Siegel's murder. Such reporting "provoked me to begin my research," she said.

Out on the West Coast, Smiley had also cultivated ties to Johnny Roselli, who was plugged into many things (and would die quite brutally in the end).

Hence, Smily was there to help cool things down when tempers flared between Siegel and Roselli.

Roselli is one of the more enigmatic mobsters I've researched. The New York Times described him as "a celebrated syndicate tough guy who had survived his time with the Chicago mob under Al Capone and Frank Nitti. Mr. Roselli, who had been dispatched to California by the Chicago family as ''a labor relations expert'' to protect Nationwide, then the only horse-racing wire service in the country, (became) a respected member of boss Jack Dragna's family in L.A."

Roselli sponsored Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno when he left Cleveland. Roselli helped Fratianno get in with Los Angeles boss Jack Dragna.

Fratianno, at 33, was inducted into Cosa Nostra in a winery on South Figueroa Street. The ceremony reminded Jimmy the Weasel of his First Communion.

"For a while there,'' he told Roselli, ''I felt like I was in church.''

He later flipped and claimed he committed seven hits -- five of which were ordered by Dragna and were members of Mickey Cohen's Long Angeles-based crew. 

Smiley also kept an eye on Virginia Hill for mob boss Jack Dragna.

Dragna, who headed the Los Angeles crime family from 1931 until his death, began to suspect that Hill, who'd spied on Siegel for him, was getting closer to Siegel. Dragna also was concerned that Hill may have told Siegel and Mickey Cohen about some of his own doings, including murder.

In Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crimes of L.A.'s Notorious Mobster, Smiley is described as:

"Tall and handsome with a thick head of wavy prematurely gray hair... he was a womanizer and fashion plate with a long criminal history.  
"With Siegel’s support, he became a prominent figure in the Hollywood netherworld. While Mickey remained in the background, Siegel and Smiley appeared together in the city’s top nightclubs and restaurants, looking like they had just stepped out of a fashion layout. Lauren Bacall recalled her first Christmas in Hollywood, where at the home of producer Mark Hellinger, she and Humphrey Bogart celebrated with Siegel and Smiley."

Smiley was among the group that owned part of Siegel's troubled Flamingo hotel.

On the night Bugsy was killed, he and Smiley were in Hill's Beverly Hills mansion, sitting alongside each other on the couch reading newspapers.

At 10:45 pm on June 20, 1947, a man with a 30-30 carbine shot Siegel a total of nine times.

Smiley, amazingly escaped injury.

Luellen attributed her father's escape to luck. "It went right through his jacket, the bullets. The only reason he was saved is that he acted quickly and dove to the floor," she said.

After the murder, Smiley went on the lam for about a year. Some believe he had known about the hit in advance. His daughter doubts that. "Did he know it was coming? No, I don't think he'd be sitting there," she said. Luellen gave the New York Post an interview a few years back.

Smiley told police that it was too dark for him to identify the shooter.

Smiley worked for Hollywood when not working
on smoothing out Bugsy Siegel's problems.

Here is an excerpt from Luellen Smiley's recently released memoir Cradle of Crime: A Daughter's Tribute:

One day I was writing a lengthy portrayal of Ben Siegel. It occurred to me, like a signal flashing that I had not noticed, that he was a major character in my life; though I had never met him. He played a role that someone else should have: a noted author, journalist, or poet. Ben Siegel changed my rational because I had to learn to love him. Learning to love him meant erasing everything I had read or heard. It is said he was a ruthless killer and a savagely hot-tempered individual. Ben supported his parents and sisters. He was a devoted father, and his daughters loved him. He generously filled suitcases full of cash and handed it over to a courier, from the United Resistance Movement; a Jewish organization named the Haganah, that fought the Nazis in Europe for two years. Most of all, Ben impressed my father so much, Dad abandoned a ten-year career in Hollywood with CB DeMille. 

Where once I believed, my mother was na├»ve and uninformed about Ben, now I know this wasn’t the case. She knew from the beginning. Mom fit into this strangely singular and controversial group of people. I see her in the full frame of who she was, and not an imaginary flawless woman. While writing about Dad I questioned my prolonged interest in his choices, his behavior, and his secrecy. I asked Uncle Myron who shares the same history. Myron reaffirmed that growing up around gangsters is like a secret tribe. ‘You just don’t meet men like our fathers in the mainstream.’ The immigrants that organized crime at the turn of the century were not criminals when they arrived. They were kids from humble frightened parents. The conditions of life in America pushed them towards crime. 

I am re-reading these FBI files in the present day of 2015. I’ve not read them since that Taos retreat in 1998. So, as I read them my reaction has matured. The only way I can describe how this discovery feels is that the crop is ready to be reaped. Yet there is another side. Will my reader have sympathy or at best empathy for my father’s loyalty to the Mob? 

It’s obvious Ben and Dad formed a close friendship from the beginning. I’ve surmised the contradictions of their characters are what attracted them as friends. Dad was a sportsman, a gambling bon vivant in Hollywood. Ben was a fearless gangster entrepreneur. His first token of friendship was to open the doors to gambling and winning. How could my father resist? In 1937, Ben rewarded Dad by sponsoring the opening of “Al Smiley’s Club Esquire” at 9015 Sunset Boulevard. The club had a short history when the ABC discovered they didn’t have a liquor license and closed them down. In my room is the photograph of Dad from the newspaper article To Jail in White “Tux”.


Smiley had never amounted to anything insofar as underworld activities were concerned until he was in contact with Bugsy Siegel who, according to ___ who first met the subject about 1937 in Los Angeles. As Siegel’s Lieutenant Subject was involved in various facets of Siegel’s numerous underworld activities in the Southern California-and the Nevada area. ___ also advised it was through his association with Siegel that Smiley made his entrance into big-time organized crime and became acquainted with many of the major hoodlums.”