The Secret 6 Film Details
Overview: After rising bootlegger Slaughterhouse Scorpio eliminates his gangland competition, two reporters and a cabal of six businessmen work to expose him.
Review: I have a hard time believing that Frances Marion – one of my favorite screenwriters of the silent and early talkie era – wrote this, it has so many holes. It’s almost like someone locked Frances Marion in a closet, wrote this script, and forged her signature to it. Let me just say only one paragraph at the end of the review somewhat spoils the film. I try to leave out details in the rest of it. First off, the film is like two different movies. At the beginning you see “Slaughterhouse” Scorpio, so-named because he is working in a slaughterhouse, take up with the gang of his pal Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy). Scorpio has an extra “rod”, actually has it on him, and likes the idea of extra money for what seems like the relatively easy work of bootlegging and whatever violence comes with it. Upstairs to gang headquarters trudges the gang.Then all of the questions start to appear. There is an older man, Robert Newton (Lewis Stone), in a somewhat drunken stupor, who seems to be in charge and is suspicious of the new gang member. Newton insults the gang freely for “thinking”, but for some reason he is not afraid of them just shooting him and they just take these insults. Why? Is Robert Newton head of the gang? Is Johnny Franks? Why are Johnny and Scorpio fighting over a run-down used-up looking woman who is obviously trading on rapidly diminishing if not completely depleted assets (Marjorie Rambeau as Peaches) when the beautiful Anne (Jean Harlow) is working downstairs? Why would Newton or any of the gang think that trespassing on a bigger gang’s territory, headed by John Miljan as the tux-wearing piano-playing Colimo, lead to anything but violence and little or no profit – which it does? And that’s just the first half of the film. The second half of the movie, in almost one frame exactly, introduces for the first time three of MGM’s biggest stars – Jean Harlow is Anne, who is a cashier at the restaurant that serves as a front for the gang, and Clark Gable and Johnny Mack Brown are two newspaper reporters, Hank and Carl, friends but trying to best each other for the biggest scoop. Anne is enlisted by Scorpio to sweet-talk Hank into not writing so much scathing material about him, and Carl seems to be on the take – but is he? Now more questions, raised not by a good plot, but by plot holes. If Newton has so little respect for Scorpio, why does he just accept him as the new gang leader? Why bother to use the courts to try Scorpio for murder and then, when that fails, that very night just use the Secret Six – who have been introduced some time before as some quasi-legal branch of law enforcement – to flood the gang with legal papers that deport practically the entire gang, disbar Newton, and indict Scorpio for tax fraud? Why the orderly arrest of Scorpio for murder but this no holds barred tommy-gun blasting surrounding and invasion of Scorpio’s headquarters over all of these non-violent offenses? Let me just say I can’t even see the reason for putting the secret six in the same room. They never say anything to each other, and those skimpy masks they wear are not going to fool anybody who might know them as to who they are anymore than The Lone Ranger’s mask would have fooled anybody who knew him. And the second from the last scene is just goofy, and the only reason I have a spoiler warning on this review. There is Scorpio and his gang on death row, practically queued up, with ten minutes between the executions of all of them. Scorpio was arrested the second time around for tax fraud not murder…how did he wind up with the death penalty? Perhaps we can lay all of this nonsense at the feet of William Randolph Hearst, whose Cosmopolitan Production company backed the film and a film with a similar tone “Gabriel Over the White House”. It seemed that when dealing with thugs Hearst didn’t mind throwing the law books out the window and just lining everyone up and shooting them. Plus Hearst had so much money and power nobody was going to tell him – your film is goofy. What’s the last scene? Gable as reporter Carl, telling his editor he’s going to sleep for a month, he’s worked so hard…but, no, there’s a big story brewing and he’s out to cover it like the energetic trooper of a reporter he is. Huh??? How did this film start out being about gang warfare and end up being about a reporter not introduced until the film’s midpoint? Inquiring minds want to know. I’d watch this for some great acting and the great gangster film atmosphere. Then there is the irony. Plotwise there is the irony concerning how Scorpio is apprehended -I’ll let you watch and find out what I’m talking about. Film history wise, there is the irony of seeing Gable and Brown as rivals on film, when in fact Gable’s appearance at MGM was curtains for Johnny Mack Brown, because Gable’s growly voice is what people expected Johnny Mack Brown to sound like, plus Gable just had such screen presence. I’d recommend it, but prepare to be confused.
Language: English, Italian
Duration: 83 min
Genre: Crime, Drama
Also known as: The Secret 6,Los seis misteriosos,Los seis misterios,The Secret Six,Otan i polis koimatai,Die geheimen Sechs,秘密の6,Die geheimen sechs Masken,Salaperäinen kerho,A Guarda Secreta,Тайная шестёрка,Die geheimen Sechs von Chikago,De hemmelige 6,Os 6 Misteriosos,Tajemnicza szóstka,Os Seis Misteriosos