Bootlegger/cafe owner Ralph Bellamy recruits crude working man Wallace Beery to join his gang which is masterminded by crooked criminal defense lawyer Lewis Stone. Beery eventually takes over Bellamy's operation, beats a rival gang, becomes wealthy and dominates the city for several years until a secret group of 6 masked businessmen have him prosecuted and sent to the electric chair with the help of rival crusading newspapermen Clark Gable and Johnny Mack Brown. Waitress Jean Harlow is torn between her love for the honest newsman Brown and her financial dependence on her generous boss, Beery. Written by
'The Secret Six' was a name coined by Chicago Tribune reporter James Doherty to six influential Chicago businessmen (including the president of Sears- Roebuck)who organized the business community against Al Capone and were instrumental in obtaining his conviction on tax evasion. See more »
Although supposedly set in Chicago, after the shoot-out in the bar, as the gangs drive off on the rear-projection in the background can be seen the large vertical sign for the Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles (at the corner of 6th and Hill Streets). That footage was also shot in 1929 or before as during that year Paramount bought the theater and renamed it "The Paramount). The distinctive 5-globe Llewellyn Iron Works streetlights are also a giveaway those shots were done in L.A. See more »
What excuse did you give him for pretending to be a deaf-mute?
Well, I said I was married to a dame that was on the hunt for me and if she found me, she'd send me up for a rap.
And what did Mr. Scorpio say to that?
He said he was sorry for all married men. Wouldn't spill the beans.
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Gangster Wallace Beery takes over a bootleg operation
"The Secret Six" (1931) is a fine pre-noir gangster film, right up there with a few other well-known films from this period like "Little Caesar", "The Public Enemy" and "The Doorway to Hell". The direction is fluid, the acting lively and dynamic, and the cinematography quite noirish. There is footage of an actual bootleg still operation that is remarkable. MGM didn't stint on the sets either. Perhaps because director George Hill had been a cinematographer, the lighting in this film is memorable in night scenes and dark interiors. His "The Big House" (1930) is another one to see.
It's a gangster story, and they tend to follow a well-known path, which is the rise and fall of the central figure. Gangster movies depend on the novelty of the details and how the story is put across. This one features interesting characters played by Lewis Stone and Wallace Beery, especially the latter. Beery's gang lord begins in a slaughterhouse. He defers to Stone but comes into his own. He's likable but don't cross him. He's crude and lacks finesse, but he overcomes his background up to a point. He can't keep everyone loyal, however, and killing has its limitations.
Clark Gable is a fast-talking newsman. Johnny Mack Brown a competing newsman who romances Jean Harlow.
I'd rate this 3/4 or 7.5/10 if I could. I think more highly of it than Maltin or the IMDb tally, which are almost identical. It's really a nice piece of work that flows along quickly, providing acting and visual dividends as well as some story novelty along the way.
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