Lights, camera, action! Get ready to dive into the thrilling world of 1931’s gangster masterpiece, THE SECRET SIX. Starring the captivating Clark Gable and the enchanting Jean Harlow, this film is a true gem in the annals of cinema history.
A Powerhouse Cast On the Rise
In this underworld drama, two stars were on the cusp of stardom: Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Before reaching the pinnacle of their careers, they joined forces to bring the story of THE SECRET SIX to life. And what a vibrant story it is!
A Peek Behind the Scenes
The life of screenwriter Frances Marion, who wrote THE SECRET SIX, was the inspiration for a fascinating documentary called WITHOUT LYING DOWN. While Marion and filmmaker George Hill were married, they lived separate lives. Hill directed this gripping film, while Marion’s creative genius shone through her compelling screenplay.
The Birth of Gangster Movies
THE SECRET SIX was birthed in the era of prohibition, a time that sparked a wave of riveting gangster films. Warner Bros., Howard Hughes, and Fox all added their distinctive flair to the genre. Not to be outdone, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) entered the scene with THE SECRET SIX, driven by the ingenious mind of Irving Thalberg.
Unmasking the Vigilantes
Frances Marion’s imaginative storytelling took a unique turn in THE SECRET SIX. The six vigilant crusaders in the film donned masks akin to Batman, a sight familiar to audiences of silent serials. Marion crafted her lead gangster character, inspired by the infamous Al Capone, against the backdrop of Chicago and Cicero, Illinois.
The Dynamic Duo: Clark Gable and Jean Harlow
Wallace Beery, known for his commanding presence, dominates the screen as the “beast” of THE SECRET SIX. Jean Harlow, a Kansas City native, shares the same hometown with Beery but loathed him in this film, as did he. It was Paul Bern, Harlow’s future husband, who orchestrated her involvement in this gripping tale. Little did they know that this was just the beginning of a powerful on-screen partnership.
The Birth of Superstars
At the tender age of nineteen, Jean Harlow captivated audiences, solidifying her status as a remarkable actress. Clark Gable, aged twenty-nine, embarked on a journey that would make him one of Hollywood’s most enduring stars. Their chemistry on and off the screen was undeniable. As they navigated the unfamiliar terrain of the movie industry, they sought validation in each other’s performances, constantly seeking feedback and improving together.
The Legacy Lives On
THE SECRET SIX marked the film debut of stage actor Ralph Bellamy, just one of many motion pictures Clark Gable appeared in that year. The film’s success was a testament to the brilliance of Frances Marion’s scripts and George Hill’s direction. It paved the way for a series of unforgettable performances by Gable, ultimately leading to his M-G-M term contract.
Critics had mixed reviews of THE SECRET SIX. Traditionally, gangster talkies were loved by some and shunned by others. However, amidst the opinions, the film found its supporters. LONDON FILM WEEKLY praised Wallace Beery’s performance, showcasing his unwavering commitment to bring realism to the screen. THE NEW YORK POST applauded the film’s direction, noting its pulsating speed.
A Box Office Triumph
Despite the divided opinions, THE SECRET SIX triumphed at the box office. With a net profit of $148,000 on an investment of $494,000, it proved to be a lucrative venture for MGM. Surpassing the success of iconic films such as SCARFACE, LITTLE CAESAR, and PUBLIC ENEMY, this hidden gem deserves recognition.
A Glimpse into History
As THE SECRET SIX dazzled audiences in 1931, another figure was on the rise, albeit in a different realm. VARIETY reported on the ascent of Adolf Hitler, who aimed to enter the world of film production. Little did the world know of the impending storm this figure would unleash.
THE SECRET SIX immortalized its cast and crew, leaving an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and the entire team behind the film shattered expectations, solidifying their place in Hollywood’s history books. So, grab your popcorn, dim the lights, and prepare for an unforgettable journey into the heart of the gangster world with THE SECRET SIX.
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