THE SECRET SIX
Directed by George Hill. Screenplay and dialogue by Frances Marion.
Photography by Harold Wenstrom.
Edited by Blanche Sewell.
Release date: April 18, 1931.
Running time: 83 minutes.
CAST: Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Marjorie
Rambeau, Paul Hurst, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, John Miljan, DeWitt Jennings,
Murray Kinnell, Fletcher Norton, Louis Natheaux, Frank McGlynn, Theodore Von
prohibition era, Scorpio (Wallace Beery), Mizoski, the "Gouger" (Paul Hurst),
and Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy) start a bootleg liquor business. When their
activities spread to the big city, rival gangster leader Colimo (John Miljan)
becomes anxious. Franks and some underlings pay a visit to Colimo's brother
at his club. Franks kills Colimo's brother and places the blame on Scorpio.
Scorpio is wounded and, learning that Franks has pulled a doublecross, kills
him. Colimo is also rubbed out.
Hank (John Mark Brown) and Carl (Clark Cable), two reporters, set out to investigate
the gangland killings. When Scorpio sees them hanging around his café he hires
Anne( Jean Harlow), a lusty blonde, as a cashier to distract them.
Six leading businessmen, a group of reformers known only as 'The Secret Six,"
ask Hank to get evidence against the gang. He locates Scorpio's gun. Anne learns
he has the murder weapon and that he is being followed by Scorpio's men. On
a subway train her attempts to warn him are useless and he is murdered.
Anne goes to the law, and Scorpio is brought to trial but acquitted b a fixed
jury. Scorpio has Anne y
kidnapped and Carl goes to her rescue but is also made prisoner. The reformers
and police raid the hideout while Carl gets Anne to safety. Scorpio tries to
escape with Newton (Lewis Stone), his lawyer and the brains of the gang. In
an argument over splitting up the cash they are carrying, Scorpio shoots him;
but Newton, before he dies, kills Scorpio.
Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times: Jean Harlow, the ash-blonde of several
other such tales, once again appears as the girl in the case - -The picture
moves along swiftly and the dialogue is quite well written Clark Gable, who
has been seen mostly as a gangster, undertakes the part of a newspaper writer
named Carl does valiant work. Mr. Gable is another whose acting is forceful,
and the same might be said of John Mack Brown, who appears as Hank.
Photoplay: You will see exactly how liquor is made; you will witness
the most thrilling gangster chase ever filmed. Beautifully produced and directed
by George Hill. Cast is splendid. - . . No; gangster pictures are not dead-not
as long as they produce thrillers like this!
Thornton Delehanty, New York Post: Jean Harlow plays Berry's girl friend,
a plausible character softened by love for the reporter . . . The Secret Six
is another neat gang melodrama, genuinely thrilling . . . The picture is unusually
well directed and it moves with a pulsating speed. The acting, too, is generally
on a high level.
London Film Weekly: A more appropriate title for this ruthless underworld
story would be Slaughterhouse, the grim nickname of Scorpio the killer, whose
rise to gang leadership and even more precipitate fall it traces. Wallace Beery's
magnificently repellent study of the brutish gunman dominates the film, even
though such capable actors as Lewis Stone, Clark Gable and John Miljan are in
the cast. It is a splendid, uncompromising performance in which nothing has
been spared to achieve realism.
Movie Mirrors: Bootleggers gain control of a town and move into the
city; but those still alive are eventually caught by an undercover investigation.
Stockyard worker Louis Scorpio (Wallace Beery) and his rod are hired by bootlegger
Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy). Jimmy Delano is warned not to sell alcohol to
a rival gang, and the cops raid the still. Franks and Scorpio escape and tell
Richard Newton (Lewis Stone) that Delano was arrested. Scorpio and Johnny are
paid for bootlegging. Joe Colimo (John Miljan) sends his gang after Franks.
Amid shooting Franks and Scorpio are chased in a car but return to Newton. Franks
sends Scorpio for a load. Colimo with his gang comes in and asks who got his
brother. Franks tells him where he can find Scorpio. At the dock Scorpio is
shot but makes it back wounded. He finds his bottle of milk in the waste-basket
and kills Franks. Newton hides Scorpio's gun before the police come in. Reporters
Hank Rogers (Johnny Mack Brown) and Carl Luckner (Clark Gable) call in the story
and flirt with waitress Anne Courtland (Jean Harlow).
Scorpio takes over Franks' business and gives Carl a present of money. Scorpio
promotes Nick Mizoski (Paul Hurst) for mayor, and he wins. Colimo calls on Scorpio
and suggests they work together. Mizoski fires police chief Donlin (DeWitt Jennings).
Anne tells Scorpio that she is going to marry Hank. Scorpio offers Hank money,
but he declines it and rejects Anne too. Colimo is murdered. Scorpio plans to
move into the city with bootlegging. He learns some stills were closed when
his weekly income decreases. Carl is helping the District Attorney, who has
formed the "secret six" men in masks. Hank examines the bullets that
killed Franks and Colimo, learning both were from the same gun. Hank searches
and finds Scorpio's gun. Scorpio sees Hank, but Carl says he invited him. Hank
takes a train, and Anne catches it to warn him; but Hank is shot dead. At the
church service police arrest Scorpio.
Carl warns Anne not to testify. Scorpio is denied bail, and police question
the formerly dumb Metz (Murray Kinnell). Metz testifies against Scorpio, though
Newton shows that Metz is a wanted criminal. Anne testifies that Scorpio said
he was going to kill Hank. Newton brings out that she got gifts from Scorpio.
Scorpio tells Eddie not to let Anne get away. The jury, apparently bribed, finds
Scorpio not guilty. Carl calls the law on Scorpio, but he is brought to Scorpio
and is asked who are the secret six. The police close in, and Newton orders
men to shoot Donlin. Carl breaks free and grabs a gun. Donlin is shot first.
Scorpio demands money from Newton and shoots him for it. Scorpio climbs into
Peaches' window, and she locks him in her closet. Carl and the police arrest
This gangster melodrama is based on the rise and fall of Al Capone, who took
over a Chicago suburb before moving into the city. Acquitted for murder, he
was eventually imprisoned for income tax evasion.