The Secret Six


1h 23m 1931
The Secret Six

Brief Synopsis

A secret society funds the investigation of a bootlegging gang.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Mystery
Release Date
Apr 18, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

During the Prohibition era, Louis Scorpio, a stockyard worker in the small town of Centro, is recruited by bootleggers Nick Mizoski and Johnny Franks. Nick, also known as The Gouger, and Johnny entice Scorpio with promises of easy profits, and then give him a tour of their distillery. After Newton, the bootleggers' boss, divides the gang's most recent profits, he informs his men that he plans to muscle in on bootlegger Joe Colimo's territory as their next job. When Colimo learns that Johnny and his henchmen are trying to force a bartender working in his territory to buy his liquor from them, he sends Eddie, one of his gunmen, to take care of the matter. A shootout ensues, which results in the killing of Colimo's brother, whom he was trying keep out of the mob. Johnny and Scorpio flee to Newton's, and when Colimo comes looking for his brother's killer, Scorpio is set up to take the rap for the murder. The Colimo mob shoots but only slightly wounds Scorpio, who soon realizes that he was set up, and returns to Newton's to take revenge on Johnny. Scorpio shoots Johnny and considers shooting Newton, but the police burst in and he escapes. Peaches, a Newton moll, becomes hysterical when she sees Johnny dead. Meanwhile, reporters Carl and Hank arrive on the scene and compete for the murder story while also vying for the attentions of Anne Courtland, another Newton moll. Anne is later hired by Scorpio to keep the reporters off the gangsters' trail. Once Scorpio gains a position of power in the bootlegging racket, he orchestrates Mizoski's Centro mayoral election victory. Soon after the new chief of police takes office, he promises to avenge his son's murder by running the hoodlums out of town, and Mizoski fires him from the force. After Colimo is killed, Scorpio sets his sights on the big city. In response to the arrival of Scorpio's gang, a special police force is created, which calls itself the "Secret Six," comprised of six masked men representing the "greatest force of law and order in the U.S." The force commmissions Carl to gather evidence against Scorpio and the mob, but he is instructed to wait until all the gangsters are in town before making any arrests. When Anne discovers a plot to kill Hank, she runs onto a subway car to warn him, but is too late. As soon as she tells Hank that she loves him, the lights on the train go out and a shot kills him. Later, Scorpio is jailed, and Metz, one of the distillery lackeys thought to be a deaf-mute, cracks under police pressure and gives the needed testimony to convict Scorpio. At Scorpio's trial, Anne testifies that she heard Scorpio threaten to kill Hank. Scorpio, however, bribes the jury and buys his not guilty verdict, which the judge angrily calls a miscarriage of justice. Following Scorpio's trial, police close in on him, and a shootout at Frank's Steak House ensues. Scorpio kills Newton for his money and then seeks refuge at Peaches', but she double-crosses him and turns him over to the police. Scorpio and his men are soon imprisoned and condemned to death row.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Mystery
Release Date
Apr 18, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

The Secret Six


The Secret Six (1931) marked Jean Harlow's first teaming with Clark Gable, who proved such an ideal screen partner that the pair went on to costar in five more movies: Red Dust (1932), Hold Your Man (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife Vs. Secretary (1936) and Saratoga (1937). For The Secret Six, MGM wandered into Warner Bros. territory, creating a gritty crime melodrama set in the Prohibition era. The film proved so successful in its portrayal of violence that it was banned in some areas including the state of New Jersey, while other local censors cut what they considered to be objectionable scenes.

Gable plays a newspaperman investigating a bootlegging operation run by Wallace Beery and cohorts. Harlow is Beery's moll, who switches allegiances after Gable enters the picture. In a part miles removed from his sympathetic role as Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series, Lewis Stone plays a booze-soaked lawyer who advises the bootleggers. Both Gable and Harlow were considered up-and-comers at this time, and their roles are subordinate to top-billed Beery in a brawling, angry performance as a character loosely based on Al Capone.

The Secret Six was the first major movie at MGM for Harlow, working on loan-out from Howard Hughes, to whom she was then under contract. Although her scenes with Gable struck sparks, both future stars were shy and retiring, and their friendship was slow to develop. "Neither of us knew much about the business," Gable would later recall. "At the end of every scene she would ask me, 'How'm I doing?' And I would ask her the same." It was a year later, with Red Dust, that Gable and Harlow emerged as MGM superstars and cemented a relationship which became so close that many in the film colony believed them to be lovers. But Gable's friends would maintain in later years that the two were "only playmates who understood every nuance of each other."

Harlow's relationship with Beery, with whom she also appeared in Dinner at Eight (1933) and China Seas (1935), was just the opposite. "The two detested each other," writes Eve Golden in her Harlow biography, Platinum Girl. "Unlike Jean, Beery in private life was very much like Beery onscreen: violent, coarse, and outspoken, greatly talented but a bane to costars and employers alike... A veteran of every form of show business, he did not take kindly to sharing the spotlight with an untested upstart, and his natural contempt for women asserted itself." Despite Beery's obnoxious behavior during the filming of The Secret Six, Golden writes, Harlow went gamely on with her scenes, "choking back her embarrassment."

Director: George W. Hill
Screenplay: Frances Marion
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: Harold Wenstrom
Costume Design: Rene Hubert
Film Editing: Blanche Sewell
Principal Cast: Wallace Beery (Louis Scorpio), Lewis Stone (Richard Newton), John Mack Brown (Hank Rogers), Jean Harlow (Anne Courtland), Marjorie Rambeau (Peaches), Paul Hurst (Nick Mizoski), Clark Gable (Carl Luckner), Ralph Ralph Bellamy (Johnny Franks).
BW-84m. Closed captioning.

by Roger Fristoe

The Secret Six

The Secret Six

The Secret Six (1931) marked Jean Harlow's first teaming with Clark Gable, who proved such an ideal screen partner that the pair went on to costar in five more movies: Red Dust (1932), Hold Your Man (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife Vs. Secretary (1936) and Saratoga (1937). For The Secret Six, MGM wandered into Warner Bros. territory, creating a gritty crime melodrama set in the Prohibition era. The film proved so successful in its portrayal of violence that it was banned in some areas including the state of New Jersey, while other local censors cut what they considered to be objectionable scenes. Gable plays a newspaperman investigating a bootlegging operation run by Wallace Beery and cohorts. Harlow is Beery's moll, who switches allegiances after Gable enters the picture. In a part miles removed from his sympathetic role as Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series, Lewis Stone plays a booze-soaked lawyer who advises the bootleggers. Both Gable and Harlow were considered up-and-comers at this time, and their roles are subordinate to top-billed Beery in a brawling, angry performance as a character loosely based on Al Capone. The Secret Six was the first major movie at MGM for Harlow, working on loan-out from Howard Hughes, to whom she was then under contract. Although her scenes with Gable struck sparks, both future stars were shy and retiring, and their friendship was slow to develop. "Neither of us knew much about the business," Gable would later recall. "At the end of every scene she would ask me, 'How'm I doing?' And I would ask her the same." It was a year later, with Red Dust, that Gable and Harlow emerged as MGM superstars and cemented a relationship which became so close that many in the film colony believed them to be lovers. But Gable's friends would maintain in later years that the two were "only playmates who understood every nuance of each other." Harlow's relationship with Beery, with whom she also appeared in Dinner at Eight (1933) and China Seas (1935), was just the opposite. "The two detested each other," writes Eve Golden in her Harlow biography, Platinum Girl. "Unlike Jean, Beery in private life was very much like Beery onscreen: violent, coarse, and outspoken, greatly talented but a bane to costars and employers alike... A veteran of every form of show business, he did not take kindly to sharing the spotlight with an untested upstart, and his natural contempt for women asserted itself." Despite Beery's obnoxious behavior during the filming of The Secret Six, Golden writes, Harlow went gamely on with her scenes, "choking back her embarrassment." Director: George W. Hill Screenplay: Frances Marion Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Cinematography: Harold Wenstrom Costume Design: Rene Hubert Film Editing: Blanche Sewell Principal Cast: Wallace Beery (Louis Scorpio), Lewis Stone (Richard Newton), John Mack Brown (Hank Rogers), Jean Harlow (Anne Courtland), Marjorie Rambeau (Peaches), Paul Hurst (Nick Mizoski), Clark Gable (Carl Luckner), Ralph Ralph Bellamy (Johnny Franks). BW-84m. Closed captioning. by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

Trivia

During the filming, Irving Thalberg had scenes added to bolster Clark Gable's part, and he was given an MGM contract after shooting was completed.

Notes

According to the Variety review, many elements of this film are traceable to actual gangster activities of the time. The review notes that Chicago and Cicero, Illinois, are clearly indicated in the film, and that the "Joe Colimo" character recalls a real-life Chicago joint operator who was murdered some years earlier. According to a biography of Irving Thalberg, the producer initially cast Clark Gable in a small role, but as filming progressed new scenes were added to bolster his part. The result was a screen presence three times longer than that called for in the original script. Some modern source plot summaries erroneously claim that the film concludes with Newton killing Scorpio, when in fact Scorpio is imprisoned in the end. According to Ralph Bellamy's autobiography, The Secret Six, his first film, was based on a true story. The autobiography also notes that Clark Gable received his M-G-M contract as a result of his performance in this film. In a filmography in the biographical file for Edgar G. Ulmer at the AMPAS Library, he is listed as production designer for this film.