Road to Perdition - JOHN AND CONNOR ROONEY

JOHN AND CONNOR ROONEY (Illustration) American History Biographies Famous Historical Events History Legends and Legendary People Social Studies Crimes and Criminals Film

John Looney—the historical figure on whom Paul Newman's character "John Rooney" is based (in the film, "Road to Perdition")—once lived in this stone mansion not far from the Mississippi River. It is located at 1635 20th Street, in Rock Island, Illinois.


In the film version of Road to Perdition, two key characters have had a last-name change.

  • John Looney, an actual Irish gangster from Rock Island, Illinois (whose real-life escapades, although a decade earlier, are part of the story) is known as "John Rooney."
  • Looney’s real-life son, "Crazy Connor," is known as Connor Rooney in the film.

(The name changes are a departure from the graphic novel by Max Allen Collins who used the names of the historical gangsters in his original tale.)

Michael Sullivan (known as Michael O’Sullivan in the original book) and his tragic tale were invented by Collins. In the underworld of the early 1930s, however, such a tale is completely believable.

It is fair to ask of those times: How did a devoted husband and father square his work (as a killer) with the deep love he had for his own family? And ... how could a young boy, who adored his father, separate the knowledge of who his father was to him and who he was to others?

It is not just the Sullivan father/son relationship that makes the story interesting. On a deeper level, what does a gangster father (like John Rooney) do when he learns his son has put business before family? Is there retribution that ought to flow from such an act? If so, against whom?

The historical John Looney seems less conflicted than his on-screen counterpart. Turns out Looney actually had a hold on Rock Island (located across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa) even before Prohibition. But after liquor was banned, Looney’s business really flourished - at least for awhile.

It is reported he controlled about 150 saloons, brothels and gambling houses. Nearly 200 merchants, who were also running illicit businesses, paid him protection fees.

Looney owned a newspaper (the Rock Island News) in which he printed awful things about people - unless they paid him not to. And he actually did have a beautiful stone mansion near the Mississippi River. It’s still there, at 1635 - 20th Street in Rock Island’s Highland Park area.

It is said that Al Capone did not interfere with Looney’s "business" interests. But other gangsters did.

On 6 October 1922, John and Connor Looney were ambushed in front of Rock Island’s Sherman Hotel. Connor was killed in the shoot-out. Soon thereafter, Looney’s brothels and saloons were shut down and his stills destroyed.

Things would get worse for him, however. He was convicted of murder in 1925 and sentenced to 14 years. He was released from prison nine years later, at age 68.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Oct 18, 2016

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"JOHN AND CONNOR ROONEY" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2002. Jan 21, 2020.
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