Sat 16 May 2009
THE SECRET SIX. MGM, 1931. Wallace Beery, Clark Gable, Lewis Stone, Jean Harlow, Ralph Bellamy, Marjorie Rambeau, Johnny Mack Brown. Screenwriter: Frances Marion (later the author of a novelized edition). Director: George W. Hill.
I stumbled onto the last half of this crime film in Paris, while I was checking channels to find something other than the French-dubbed American TV series that seem to dominate French television.
The film was shown in the original English-language version and featured an impressive cast, as enumerated above, including Johnny Mack Brown in a non-Western role.
Beery and Stone form an unlikely pair as a crime Syndicate ganglord and a crooked lawyer opposed by a masked group of concerned citizens. Harlow is the good/bad girl, and Gable the undercover agent working to dethrone Beery and expose Stone.
Pre-classic-period MGM films don’t turn up on American TV these days, and it was a pleasure to see even part of this skillful thriller by another director previously unknown to me.
[EDITORIAL COMMENT.] This was written, of course, before Turner Classic Movies came along. The Dark Ages are over, and movies of the same era as The Secret Six can be seen on TV several times a week. Nor are films with stars such as this one obscure any longer, even if the stars weren’t stars at the time. With both Gable and Harlow in the film, it’s easy to find stills taken from it to go along with reviews like this one.