The Unholy Three (1930 film)

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The Unholy Three
The Unholy Three (1930 film).jpg
The Unholy Three, 1930 remake, was the first talkie and last film of Lon Chaney, Sr., showing him, on the far right, of the theatrical film poster
Directed byJack Conway
Produced byIrving Thalberg
Written byJ. C. Nugent
Elliott Nugent
Based onThe Unholy Three
by Tod Robbins
StarringLon Chaney
Lila Lee
Elliott Nugent
Harry Earles
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyPercy Hilburn
Edited byFrank Sullivan
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 12, 1930 (1930-07-12)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$988,000[1]

The Unholy Three is a 1930 American Pre-Code melodrama directed by Jack Conway and starring Lon Chaney. Its plot involves a crime spree. The film is a remake of the 1925 film of the same name, with both films based on the novel The Unholy Three, by Tod Robbins.

In both versions, the roles of Professor Echo and Tweedledee are played by Lon Chaney and Harry Earles respectively. This film is notable for the fact that it was Chaney's last film, as well as his only talkie. Chaney died from throat cancer one month after the film's release.[2]


A sideshow is closed by the police after Tweedledee (Harry Earles), the embittered "Twenty Inch Man", kicks a young boy, starting a riot. Echo, the ventriloquist, proposes that Tweedledee, the strongman Hercules (Ivan Linow), and he leave and, as "The Unholy Three", use their talents to commit crimes. Echo also takes along his pickpocket girlfriend Rosie (Lila Lee) and his gorilla, whom Hercules fears.

Echo disguises himself as Mrs. O'Grady, a kindly old grandmother who runs a pet shop. Tweedledee pretends to be her baby grandson, and Hercules her son-in-law. They use the information they gain from their wealthier patrons to rob them. Echo is the leader and brains behind the outfit, but his bossy ways leave the other two resentful. Meanwhile, the shop's clerk, Hector McDonald (Elliott Nugent), falls in love with Rosie.

The gang is ready to pull off a theft on Christmas Eve. When Echo decides to postpone it, Tweedledee and Hercules go ahead without him. Afterwards, Tweedledee gleefully recounts how they not only robbed but also killed the wealthy Mr. Arlington, despite his pleas for mercy. Worried about the police, they decide to frame Hector by planting a stolen necklace in his closet.

That same night, Hector asks Rosie to marry him. Ashamed of her past, she pretends she was only leading him on for a laugh. After he leaves, she starts crying; he returns, sees that she really does love him, and they become engaged.

However, Hector is arrested for murder. Still frightened, the Unholy Trio hide out in an isolated cabin in the country, forcibly taking Rosie with them. Rosie pleads with Echo to exonerate Hector somehow in exchange for her returning to him. Tweedledee tries to persuade Hercules to shoot them both, but the strongman refuses.

Echo, as "Grandma" O'Grady, shows up at the trial and tries to provide an alibi, but slips up and his disguise is discovered. He makes a full confession and receives a sentence of one to five years. Back at the cabin, Tweedledee overhears Hercules offering Rosie a chance to run away with him (and the loot), so he lets loose the gorilla; Hercules murders Tweedledee before he himself is killed by the ape. Rosie escapes.

As Echo is being taken to prison, Rosie promises to wait for him, honoring their agreement. Realizing she loves Hector, he generously tells her not to.



Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film two and a half out of four stars, praising Chaney's performance while criticizing the performances by the rest of the cast.[3]


  1. ^ Blake, Michael Francis (1995). A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 331. ISBN 1-879-51121-5.
  2. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Winston (2010). A History of Horror. Rutgers University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-813-55039-4.
  3. ^ Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 715. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3.

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