Thursday, March 27, 2003


MGM treads on Warner Brothers' turf with this hard-boiled gangster picture filled with bluster, violence, sex, and star power. Apparently, the plotline is a thinly veiled recounting of the story of Al Capone. Wallace Beery plays beefy lug Louis Scorpio, nicknamed "Slaughterhouse," for the job he held before he started working with bootlegger Ralph Bellamy (in his first movie role). Beery works his way up the line the become second only to crooked lawyer & crime lord Lewis Stone. Johnny Mack Brown is a reporter who follows the gang and writes about their exploits. He falls for Jean Harlow, a kind-hearted waitress who works for the mob. Clark Gable shows up as a rival reporter. One early scene uses overlapping dialogue as Brown and Gable both call in stories and flirt with Harlow at the same time. Beery takes over the town (Centro, rather than Chicago) while a group of six businessmen, who wear masks and go by the name "The Secret Six," arrange to have Gable work undercover to leak info on the gang to the district attorney. Brown gets caught up in the action as well. Even though Brown gets star billing, Gable effortlessly steals every scene he's in. Eight years before GONE WITH THE WIND, you can hear Rhett Butler in his voice now and then. It's a bit of a change of pace to see Bellamy (usually the nice-guy romantic loser) and Stone (Judge Hardy and kindly grandfather types) play bad guys. A fast pace and good acting (aside from the rather wooden Brown) make this worth catching.

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