Secret Six

Secret Six

Director: George W. Hill

Cast: George W. Hill, Wallace Beery, Johnny Mack Brown, Jean Harlow

     
 

Bootleggers Louis Scorpio (Wallace Beery) and Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy), with the advice of their alcoholic lawyer Richard Newton (Lewis Stone), try to muscle in on the territory of gangster "Smiling Joe" Colimo (John Miljan). Franks kills Colimo's brother and tries to frame Scorpio, but Scorpio kills both him and {Colimo. Newspaper reporters Hank Rogers (Johnny… See more details below

Overview

Bootleggers Louis Scorpio (Wallace Beery) and Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy), with the advice of their alcoholic lawyer Richard Newton (Lewis Stone), try to muscle in on the territory of gangster "Smiling Joe" Colimo (John Miljan). Franks kills Colimo's brother and tries to frame Scorpio, but Scorpio kills both him and {Colimo. Newspaper reporters Hank Rogers (Johnny Mack Brown) and Carl Luckner (Clark Gable) investigate with help from "The Secret Six," a consortium of businessmen eager to fight crime, but when Scorpio's moll Anne Courtland (Jean Harlow) tries to help them, Scorpio kidnaps her and Carl. The two hostages are rescued by "The Secret Six" and the police, and Scorpio and Newton shoot each other fighting over their money.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
George W. Hill's The Secret Six was an unlikely subject for an MGM feature -- its story of bootleggers battling the law and each other is closer to what Warner Bros. was doing at the start of the 1930s. (One can also see some unique MGM touches in the production -- the apartment in which Jean Harlow's character is set up by her mobster/lover Wallace Beery is more elegant, in the best Art Deco design, than anything that would have turned up in a Warner Bros. drama of this sort). And the presence of Clark Gable in a leading role here, and the modest similarities in the plot to Warner Bros.' Little Caesar (released three months earlier) have a certain irony -- Gable had been up for the role of Edward G. Robinson's best friend (who eventually helps bring him down) when that earlier film was in pre-production in 1930. He gave such a strong performance in this movie, however, and showed he could dominate the screen so successfully, that he landed a long-term contract with MGM on the strength of his performance here. And Gable is the sparkplug that drives the movie -- Wallace Beery is okay, doing what he did best as a sometimes comically uncouth but vicious villain; Jean Harlow is good to look at and acquits herself well as an actress; and Lewis Stone is surprisingly effective as a lawyer whose contact with his criminal clients goes far beyond representing them in court. There are also some tense and well-staged scenes, such as an execution in a subway car, but the movie also creaks in spots where it should roll along smoothly, as was a risk with any talkie in 1931; and the director wasn't quite up to carrying it over those patches -- except when Gable is on the screen. There is also some fairly snappy dialogue, courtesy of Hill's wife Frances Marion, and it helps; but the whole notion of a group of masked citizens (who look like contestants on a 1950s game show when they're all sitting in a row) organizing a secret war against the mob will seem even sillier today than it probably did to anyone who stopped to think about it in 1931. Oddly enough, despite the plot holes and a certain unreality to the briskness of some of the events depicted, this movie was very topical for its time -- the exploits of Chicago mobster Al Capone were the obvious basis for some of the misdeeds attributed to Beery's Louis Scorpio, and Capone was indicted for tax evasion (one of the charges leveled at Scorpio) in 1931. As a multi-layered curio, in the career of Clark Gable, as an MGM crime film, and a piece of topical filmmaking, The Secret Six is worth a look -- and at its best, it's also an old-style thrill ride.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/16/2012
UPC:
0883316650004
Original Release:
1931
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:23:00
Sales rank:
30,120

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Wallace Beery Louis Scorpio
Johnny Mack Brown Hank Rogers
Jean Harlow Anne Courtland
Marjorie Rambeau Peaches
Paul Hurst Nick Mizoski, the Gouger
Clark Gable Carl Luckner
Ralph Bellamy Johnny Franks
John Miljan Smiling Joe Colimo
DeWitt Jennings Chief Donlin
Murray Kinnell Dummy Metz
Fletcher Norton Jimmy Delano
Louis Natheaux Eddie
Frank McGlynn Judge
Lewis Stone Richard Newton
Theodore Von Eltz District Attorney
Tom London Hood

Technical Credits
George W. Hill Director
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Rene Hubert Costumes/Costume Designer
Frances Marion Screenwriter
Blanche Sewell Editor
Harold Wenstrom Cinematographer

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