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The Unholy Three (1930)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 12 July 1930 (USA)
"Talkie" remake of Tod Browning's 1925 silent film. A trio of former sideshow performers double as the "Unholy Three" in a scam to nab some shiny rocks.


Jack Conway


Clarence Aaron 'Tod' Robbins (from the book by) (as Clarence Aaron Robbins)




Complete credited cast:
Lon Chaney ... Echo
Lila Lee ... Rosie
Elliott Nugent ... Hector
Harry Earles ... Midget
John Miljan ... Prosecuting Attorney
Ivan Linow ... Hercules
Clarence Burton ... Regan
Crauford Kent ... Defense Attorney


Professor Echo is a sideshow ventriloquist who recruits two sociopathic co-workers, Midge and Hercules, the show's midget and strong man respectively, into a burglary ring. Echo disguises himself as the elderly Mrs. O'Grady, the owner of a pet store, who sells talking parrots and mynah birds to a high-class clientèle with Hercules posing as his son-in-law married to Echo's pickpocket girlfriend Rosie and Midge passing as their infant son. Echo's ventriloquist skills initially convince the customers that their parrot can talk, but they're disappointed when they bring the mute bird home. A phone call of complaint brings Grandma O'Grady and her daughter's "baby" to the client's house to facilitate the bird's talking, an opportunity to case the house for a subsequent robbery by "The Unholy Three." Written by duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The amazing Chaney not only talks, but he changes his voice as he changes his disguises! (Print Ad-Daily Examiner,((Grafton, NSW)) 6 December 1930) See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Known as "The Man of 1000 Faces", Chaney signed a legal affidavit declaring all the voices he performed in this, his only talking film, were actually his own. Thus, in addition to multiple characters, he performed multiple voices. See more »


When the defense lawyer is about to request a postponement he first addresses the judge by saying, "your honor". It then cuts to a close-up of the judge looking at the defense attorney then at the prosecutor as if he is listening to them talking. However, during the entire close-up no one is talking. Apparently the shot was meant to be a cutaway but it was mistakenly used without audio. See more »


[first lines]
Sideshow Barker: This is just a little sample of what you will see on the inside. The beginning of the religious dance of the muscleman. This is the dance that broke the sultan's thermometer! Just a moment there, the big sensations for the inside. Remember I said, the big sensation on the inside. The admission is a dime, ten cents or ten part of a dollar.
See more »

Alternate Versions

An alternate ending was shot but never released. Closer to the original silent version, it has Echo telling Rosie to go to Hector at the carnival after he makes a full confession in the court. See more »


Referenced in The Devil's Rejects (2005) See more »


Sweet Rosie O'Grady
(1896) (uncredited)
Written by Maude Nugent
Sung a cappella by Lon Chaney through his dummy
See more »

User Reviews

Lon Chaney: "The Man of a Thousand Voices"?
11 December 1998 | by NamistaSee all my reviews

"The Unholy Three" was the last film made by the great Lon Chaney -- and the only talking film which he completed before his untimely death at age 47. Chaney is nothing less than marvelous as "Echo", the sideshow ventriloquist who forms a criminal collaboration with a midget (Harry Earles) and a strongman (Ivan Linow).

After fleeing a carnival bust, this threesome sets up a burglary ring with Echo also posing as an old lady pet shop owner. The gang also recruits Rosie (Lila Lee) as the sexy "granddaughter". This front works well enough for the gang until one of Rosie's suitors (Elliott Nugent) naively and innocently undermines the gang's unity.

This is a very enjoyable film, which has nice comic touches and some racy, pre-Code dialougue. The best scenes involve "Grandma" (Chaney in drag is a hoot!) fighting with the gang as the old lady. Other priceless scenes include "Baby" (Earles) casing a wealthy home ("pretty beads...) and where the gang eludes the police inspector watching Baby play around the Christmas tree ("my cow, gimme my cow!...). Very funny stuff.

This film is highly recommended to all film buffs -- and in particular, to fans of Lon Chaney. The real pleasure of course, is Chaney, who adds several vocal textures to his already incredible repertoire. He not only is the voice of Echo, but also "Grandma", a sideshow dummy, and a parrot! It is indeed a shame that we could not have had more from this incredible talent ...

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Release Date:

12 July 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Unholy Three See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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