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The Secret Six is a 1931 film directed by George W. Hill.

It's a gangster film. Louis "Slaughterhouse" Scorpio (Wallace Beery) is called that because he works in a slaughterhouse whacking livestock on the head with a sledgehammer. It doesn't take much convincing for Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy, in the first role of a 59-year film career) to leave pig slaughtering behind to join his gang. Gang leader Richard Newton (who's also a practicing attorney!) likes Scorpio but Johnny Franks gets jealous and tries to betray Scorpio to their enemies. Scorpio survives and kills Franks instead.

Scorpio takes Franks's position as head of the gang under Newton. Soon the Newton gang takes over the city of "Centro", aka Not Chicago. Scorpio directs one of his molls, Anne Courtland (Jean Harlow), to seduce Hank Rogers, a newspaper reporter who's bringing too much attention to Scorpio's criminal activities. Scorpio succeeds in bribing a second reporter, Carl Luckner (Clark Gable). What Scorpio doesn't know is that a gang of vigilante businessmen, the Secret Six, is working to take him down—and Carl Luckner is working for them.

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First of six films starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, although in this one they only share a couple of scenes.


Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Newton, head of the gang, is drunk a lot.
  • Call-Back: After Scorpio shoots Johnny In the Back, Newton says he'll never turn his back on Scorpio. As they're running away from the cops at the end, sure enough, Scorpio shoots Newton in the back, and Newton says "That's the first time I ever turned my back on you, you rat."
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: The film ends with the sound of newsboys off-camera distributing newspapers announcing Scorpio's execution.
  • Hard-Work Montage: A montage shows the brewing, bottling, and distribution of illegal beer.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • When Scorpio expresses admiration for Johnny's moll Peaches, Johnny says he can give it a shot, "but blondes come high."
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    • Scorpio tells Anne to seduce Hank by saying "Wet his beer."
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Scorpio bribes a juror on his trial for Hank's murder, as revealed by the fancy cigarette case the juror produces. He gets an acquittal, although it turns out not to matter as the Secret Six comes after him with a raft of indictments.
  • The Mole: Carl takes Scorpio's bribes and pretends to be on the payroll, but he is really informing on the gang for the Secret Six.
  • New Meat: Joe Colimo's smiling young smooth-faced brother Ivan insists on going along with the other gangsters to attack Newton's gang. Naturally he gets killed.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Johnny finds it only too easy to betray Scorpio to Joe Colimo's gang.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: Scorpio sends Anne after Hank to distract him away from his investigative reporting. Naturally, Anne falls in love with Hank, and when Scorpio has Hank killed she testifies against him in court.
  • The Speechless: "Dummy" Metz, who runs distilling operations, can't speak. Scorpio finds hiring a mute to be a wise precaution. Subverted when it turns out he's faking.
  • Suddenly Speaking: "Dummy" Metz, one of Newton's hoods, is hauled in for questioning, and it's then that it's revealed that he can actually talk after all, and was only faking being a mute. He testifies against Scorpio in court.
  • Tactful Translation: Scorpio dictates a letter to some competitors in which he says, "Dear gents, you'd better lay off shipping grapes into our state if you don't cut me in on it." His aide translates this as "Dear gentlemen, I understand you are shipping concentrated grape juice into our state without consulting our organization."
  • The Teetotaler: He may be a bootlegger, but Louis "Slaughterhouse" Scorpio only drinks milk.
  • Title Drop: The "secret six" are a group of businessmen vigilantes who band together to go after Newton's gang. They wear masks which, along with their three-piece suits, look very silly.
  • Widow's Weeds: She doesn't have the veil, and in fact she isn't a widow. But after Hank is killed Anne, who previously wore slinky cocktail dresses, now dresses all in black.
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