Looking to make some fast money, Scorpio (Wallace Beery) meets with gangsters Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy) and Mizoski (Paul Hurst) about joining a bootlegging racket. They work for Newton (Lewis Stone) and he wants to muscle fellow bootlegger Joe Colimo (John Miljan) out of some of his territory. Of course, Colimo isn’t about to take that sitting down. He gets into a gunfight with Newton’s guys and Colimo’s brother is killed in the crossfire. When Colimo comes looking to get even, Johnny tries to set Scorpio up to take the fall, but Scorpio figures out what’s going on and turns the tables on Johnny.
With all the excitement, police and newspaper reporters flock to Newton’s headquarters. Among them are reporters Hank (John Mack Brown) and Carl (Clark Gable), who take a linking to Newton’s associate Anne (Jean Harlow). Each of them is hoping to get the scoop from Anne. After the excitement surrounding Johnny and Colimo dies down, Scorpio continues to prove to be a valuable asset to the gang and even helps get Mizoski elected as Mayor. Not content with just running a small town, Scorpio sets his sights on taking over the big city, too. But the big city doesn’t want Scorpio around. A group called The Secret Six is formed to fight his influence and Carl is recruited to help their cause.
The Secret Six is a somewhat unusual MGM movie in that it has none of the gloss generally associated with MGM movies and instead has all of the grit of a Warner Brothers movie. Indeed, The Secret Six was produced by Irving Thalberg in an attempt to compete with Warner Brothers’ gangster hits like The Public Enemy. Although The Secret Six is an enjoyable movie with a good cast, it lacks the organic quality that Little Caesar and The Public Enemy have. It’s a movie that tried so hard to follow a trend that it simply could not have that effortless quality of the trendsetter.