Secret Six, The (1931)

“Carl, you’d better come through: Who are the secret six?”

Synopsis:
A reporter (Clark Gable) and a moll (Jean Harlow) help a group of concerned citizens (the “Secret Six”) bring about the downfall of big-time prohibition-era mobster Louie Scorpio (Wallace Beery).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, the cast in this early anti-crime flick is “first-rate”, with Wallace Beery’s “offbeat” performance as Louie Scorpio especially notable. While there’s nothing new under the sun here in terms of the plot — small-time slaughterhouse worker rises to the top of the crime world by killing colleagues, bribing journalists, and planting politicians — it’s all done with style and levity, and is a joy to watch. It’s also fun to see Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in two of their earlier film roles, with Gable coming across as especially charismatic. However, this film really should have a different title, given that the “Secret Six” (concerned citizens who, as Peary puts it, “look silly in their Lone Ranger masks”) only show up twice, and don’t have much to do with the overall plot.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Wallace Beery’s comical portrayal as “Slaughterhouse” Scorpio
    Wallace Beery
  • Clark Gable in one of his first star-making roles
    Gable
  • Jean Harlow in a sympathetic early role
    Jean Harlow2
  • Gable and his colleague (Johnny Mack Brown) making competing phone calls to their newspapers while simultaneously chatting up Jean Harlow
    Journalists
  • Lewis Stone in a pre “Judge Hardy” role
    Lewis Stone
  • A fun glimpse of the New York Metro system in the 1930s
    Metro
  • Scorpio dictating a letter to his secretary, who makes some substantial changes:

    Scorpio: “You better lay off shipping grapes into our state if you don’t cut me in on it.” Read that.
    Secretary: “Gentlemen: I understand you are shipping concentrated grape juice into our state without consulting our organization.”
    Scorpio: That’s right.
    Secretary: Thank you, sir.

    Dictating

Must See?
No. While it’s a good anti-crime flick with an excellent cast, I believe director George Hill’s previous film, The Big House (1930), is a better candidate as a “must see” film.

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One Response to “Secret Six, The (1931)”

  1. In agreement with the assessment here; and not a must.

    It’s easy to see why TCM tends to show this back-to-back with ‘Beast of the City'; they’re cut of similar cloth. I’d give ‘SS’ the edge, however. Hill’s direction is smoother and the script is tighter, more economic.

    I was unaware that Hill committed suicide (after being in a bad accident) a few years after making this film. It would have been interesting to see his growth as a director.

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