Cast & Crew
Ventriloquist Professor Echo tires of living off the small profits of petty theft and proposes to three of his fellow sideshow performers, Herman, who is known as the strong man, Hercules and Willie, a dwarf billed as Tweedledee, that they go far away, where they will never be found. Some time later, the three have established new identities, along with Rosie, a young pickpocket with whom Echo is in love, and Echo's gorilla, of which Herman is mortally afraid. The pet shop they run and disguises they don provide a way for Echo and his cohorts to have access to the homes of wealthy clients who take delivery of parrots and other pets in his shop. Echo guards the jewels and money that Herman is able to steal, but Herman and Willie are becoming tired of waiting to spend their money, and Rosie is becoming attracted to Hector, a kind, but naïve young man who works at the pet shop. Although Echo verbally threatens Rosie not to become involved with Hector, she is not afraid of him and continues to see Hector. On Christmas, when Herman and Willie commit a jewel robbery at the home of wealthy client Arlington, Arlington is killed. Echo is furious and, with Willie's help, nervously hides the necklace that Herman has stolen when the police come to his home behind the shop. To avoid the police, Echo implicates Hector in the robbery by planting the jewels in his room. The bewildered Hector is then arrested and put on trial for robbery and murder. Soon Echo is hiding in a cabin in the country with the others, including Rosie, who has fallen in love with Hector and urges Echo to help him. After Rosie promises to marry Echo and show him the affection he craves, Echo softens and decides to help. He then goes back to the city and appears at Hector's trial, in the guise of Mrs. O'Grady, the owner of the pet shop. Although he attempts to hide his true identity, on the witness stand he eventually reveals himself as Echo and is arrested. Meanwhile, in the country, Herman and Willie, who have been left behind with Rosie, have a falling out when greed and jealousy overtake them. Herman kills Willie but is himself killed by the gorilla, while Rosie escapes the cabin and goes to the city. After Echo is sentenced to several years in jail for the robbery, Rosie promises to wait for him and make good on her promise, but at the train station on his way to prison, Echo pretends not to want her anymore, letting her know that it is all right for her to marry Hector and earning her gratitude to him.
The Unholy Three (1930)
For Lon Chaney's talking picture debut and, ironically, what would prove to be his final film, MGM producer chief Irving G. Thalberg decided on a remake of a previous Chaney hit, The Unholy Three (1925). The new version exploited Chaney's stage-trained voice as well as his gift for vocal impersonations. In the course of the him, you can hear him as Mrs. O'Grady, a parrot, a girl at a carnival show, and the ventriloquist's dummy. In fact, he actually learned ventriloquism for his role in the film. Despite his virtuoso vocal prowess, there were rumors circulated prior to the film's release that Chaney did not speak in The Unholy Three and used a voice double. To prove this was untrue, Chaney signed an a notarized affidavit confirming that his voice and the four others he used in the film were indeed his own.
Except for the final courtroom scene and the ending, The Unholy Three is almost a scene for scene remake of the 1925 version directed by Tod Browning. The new version also proved to be a hit with the public and would have been the beginning of a promising new career in sound films for Chaney. Unfortunately, Chaney died seven weeks after the release of The Unholy Three from bronchial cancer.
Director: Jack Conway
Producer: Irving G. Thalberg
Screenplay: J.C. Nugent, Elliot Nugent
Cinematography: Percy Hilburn
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cast: Lon Chaney (Echo), Lila Lee (Rosie), Elliott Nugent (Hector), Harry Earles (Tweedledee), Ivan Linow (Hercules).
by Jeff Stafford
The Unholy Three (1930)
M-G-M made a silent adaptation of Clarence Aaron Robbins' novel in 1925. That version was directed by Tod Browning and also starred Lon Chaney and Harry Earles as "Echo" and "Tweedledee". Modern sources have called the 1930 version a shot-by-shot remake of the 1925 film, although Waldemar Young is credited with the screenplay of the silent film, while J. C. Nugent and Elliott Nugent (who also appeared in the 1930 picture as "Hector") are the only credited writers on the 1930 sound film.
The 1930 production was the fifty-seven-year-old Chaney's only sound film, as well as his final film before his death on August 26, 1930. For additional information on Chaney, please consult the entry above for the 1957 Universal film Man of a Thousand Faces, directed by Joseph Pevney and starring James Cagney as Chaney. That biographical film's title referred to Chaney's well-known sobriquet, which alluded to the many film roles in which he wore heavy makeup and various disguises.
Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Jack Baxley, Ray Cooke, De Garo the Fire Eater, Trixie Friganza, Charles Gemora, Joseph W. Girard, Armand Kaliz, Sylvester the Sword Swallower, Birdie Thompson and Cecilia and Linda Parker.