Secret Six, The (1931)

US / 83 minutes / bw / George Hill–Cosmopolitan, MGM Dir & Pr: George Hill Scr: Frances Marion Cine: Harold Wenstrom Cast: Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Marjorie Rambeau, Paul Hurst, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, John Miljan, DeWitt Jennings, Murray Kinnell, Fletcher Norton, Louis Natheaux, Frank McGlynn, Theodore von Eltz, Oscar Rudolph.

It’s the Prohibition era in the city of Centro. Meat worker Louis/Louie “Slaughterhouse” Scorpio (Beery) is tempted by his friends Johnny Franks (Bellamy) and Nick “The Gouger” Mizoski (Hurst) to join them in a minor crime for bootlegger and shyster Richard “Newt” Newton (Stone). Soon Scorpio is a regular fixture in the gang. When an attempt to start muscling in on the turf of bootlegger Smiling Joe Colimo (Miljan) turns into a gunfight between Newton’s men and a bunch of Colimo’s thugs, led by Eddie (Natheaux), Franks unwittingly shoots dead Colimo’s baby-faced kid brother Ivan (Rudolph) and, when Colimo comes seeking revenge, blames Scorpio. Colimo’s goons go after Scorpio, but he’s not seriously injured and, intuiting that Franks set him up, murders him. Newton, seeing promise in Scorpio’s brutality and stupidity, gets him acquitted of the crime and sets him up as a front man.

Secret Six - see caption 1

Reporters Hank Rogers (John Mack Brown, right) & Carl Luckner (Clark Gable) phone in stories of Franks’s death.

Scorpio manages to have The Gouger elected mayor of Centro, then has his henchman “Dummy” Metz (Kinnell)—so nicknamed because he’s a mute—murder Colimo and a couple of his sidekicks using Scorpio’s very own rod; Scorpio does, however, recruit Colimo’s enforcer Eddie to his cause.

Secret Six - Anne [Jean Harlow]

Jean Harlow as the floozy-with-a-heart-of-gold Anne Courtland.

All this while two rival journalists, Carl Luckner (Gable) and Hank Rogers (Brown), have been circling Scorpio’s mob. Scorpio has persuaded floozy Anne Courtland (Harlow) into using her feminine wiles to persuade Hank to Continue reading

Hotel Berlin (1945)

vt Vicki Baum’s Hotel Berlin
US / 98 minutes / bw / Warner Dir: Peter Godfrey Pr: Louis F. Edelman Scr: Jo Pagano, Alvah Bessie Story: Hier Stand ein Hotel (1943; vt Hotel Berlin; vt Hotel Berlin ’43; vt Berlin Hotel; vt Here Stood a Hotel) by Vicki Baum Cine: Carl Guthrie Cast: Faye Emerson, Helmut Dantine, Raymond Massey, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Alan Hale, George Coulouris, Henry Daniell, Peter Whitney, Helene Thimig, Steven Geray, Kurt Kreuger, Frank Reicher, Richard Tyler, Paul Panzer, Wolfgang Zilzer.

In some ways a companion piece to CASABLANCA (1942), but set in a swanky hotel in Berlin during the final months of the war rather than the somewhat more bohemian environs of Rick’s Café Américain, this surprisingly neglected movie has strengths of its own, not least an electrifying performance from Peter Lorre in a subsidiary role.

The Gestapo has deduced that Dr. Martin Richter (Dantine), an escapee from Dachau, has taken refuge in the Hotel Berlin, and its officers are combing the place in search of him. Also at the hotel are various high-ranking Nazis, including General Arnim von Dahnwitz (Massey) who, although renowned as the butcher of Kharkov, has recently participated in an unsuccessful coup against Hitler; all the other conspirators have suicided or been executed, and even von Dahnwitz’s old and dear friend Baron von Stetten (Daniell) reckons the man should kill himself before the Gestapo hauls him in. Von Dahnwitz, however, believes there’s a chance for him and his mistress, celebrated actress Lisa (or Liesl, as she’s sometimes called in dialogue) Dorn (King), to escape to Sweden.

Hotel Berlin - Raymond Massey as Gen Arnim von Dahnwitz

Raymond Massey as the hapless Gen Arnim von Dahnwitz.

The fugitive Martin Richter has a network of allies among the hotel wait-staff. One of these, Fritz Renn (Reicher), is soon arrested, but not before he has equipped Martin with a waiter’s coat. Fritz believes that, if Martin can contrive to be serving in Lisa’s suite during the search, the chances are that the searchers, dazzled by her fame, will overlook him. The plan works, although Lisa becomes convinced Martin is a Gestapo spy. Another significant ally is Bellboy #6 (Tyler), a child with courage and fortitude beyond his years, the son of underground leader Walter Baumler (Zilzer).

Hotel Berlin - Richter (Dantine) and Prof Koenig

The fugitive Martin Richter (Helmut Dantine) and the world-weary turncoat Professor Koenig (Peter Lorre).

The resident of the room next to Lisa’s suite is one-time Nobel prizewinner Professor Johannes Koenig (Lorre), who Continue reading