Though the gangster film was hardly MGM's metier, THE SECRET SIX is a well-made genre piece marked by some excellent performances. It is the Prohibition era and Wallace Beery, along with partners Paul Hurst and Ralph Bellamy, decides to enter the bootlegging racket. Lewis Stone, an
alcoholic lawyer, gives them advice, and soon their underhanded business is thriving. The group sets its sights on the more lucrative market of the big city, ruffling the feathers of mob boss John Miljan. Bellamy and some thugs decide to pay a call on Miljan's brother at the nightclub where he
works. After bumping off the brother, Bellamy pins the murder on Beery, hoping Miljan's organization will act accordingly. Beery is wounded by a gunshot, then, learning of Bellamy's double cross, he has Bellamy killed and murders Miljan for good measure. Johnny Mack Brown and Clark Gable, two
newspapermen assigned to investigate the gang wars, spend some time in Beery's cafe, which causes the mob boss to grow suspicious. He has Jean Harlow work as a cashier in the cafe to keep watch on the two men. Later, a group of businessmen who go by the name "The Secret Six" talk to Brown and ask
him to gather evidence of Beery's activities. Brown gets hold of the gun Beery used in the killings. Harlow, learning that Beery's thugs are out to kill Brown, tries to catch up with him on the subway train to warn him, but she is too late and Brown is murdered. Harlow decides to retaliate against
her former employer, Beery, and turns witness against him at his trial. However, the powerful crime lord has rigged the jury, thus assuring him an acquittal. Beery fires back at Harlow's treachery by having her kidnaped. Gable learns where she is being held and goes to rescue her but ends up being
taken hostage. The Secret Six arrive with the law in tow; they swoop in on the hideout, while Gable escapes with Harlow. Beery and Stone (the controlling mind behind the gang) also manage to escape, but argue over how they will split up their money. Beery shoots Stone, but the dying Stone fires
back, killing the man who is murdering him. THE SECRET SIX is a well-crafted film, with gritty, realistic dialog and some excellent performances. Beery is a powerhouse, giving an angry performance that embodies the ruthless character perfectly--a character that screenwriter Frances Marion later
said she based on Al Capone. Stone is fine in his supporting role as the failed, booze-soaked lawyer, a far cry from the image he would project in a few years with the "Andy Hardy" films. Gable and Harlow, up-and-coming when this film was made, show distinct talent, though there is little
chemistry between them. (The chemistry would develop in time, however, and they would go on to make five films together.) THE SECRET SIX was a subject of some controversy because many considered it to be excessively violent. The film was banned in many areas, including the entire state of New
Jersey, while other local censors excised what they felt to be the more objectionable moments.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Though the gangster film was hardly MGM's metier, THE SECRET SIX is a well-made genre piece marked by some excellent performances. It is the Prohibition era and Wallace Beery, along with partners Paul Hurst and Ralph Bellamy, decides to enter the bootleggi… (more)
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