Released 5/30/25 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Tod Browning; Screenplay: Waldemar Young, from a story by Clarence Aaron (Tod) Robbins; Cinematography: David Kesson; Film Editor: Daniel Gray; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and Joseph Wright; 7 reels (6948'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Echo/Mrs. O'Grady), Mae Busch (Rosie O'Grady), Matt Moore (Hector McDonald), Victor McLaglen (Hercules), Harry Earles (Tweedledee/Willie), Harry Betz (Regan), Edward Connelly (Judge), William Humphreys (Defense Attorney), A. E. Warren (Prosecuting Attorney), Walter Perry (Announcer), John Merkyl (Jeweler), Charles Wellesley (John Arlington), Percy Williams (Butler), Marjorie Morton (Mrs. Arlington), Violet Crane (Arlington Baby), Louis Morrison (Commissioner of Police), Alice Julian (Fat Lady), Walter P. Cole (Human Skeleton), Vera Vance (Ballerina), John Millerta, Delmo Fritz, Michey McBan, Peter Kortos
SYNOPSIS: The story opens at a sideshow where a sizable crowd has gathered. Among the performers is Hercules the Strongman, Tweedledee the Midget, and Echo the Ventriloquist. Working the crowd is Rosie O'Grady, who is picking the pockets of the customers, then turning the loot over the Echo. A small boy laughs at Tweedledee and the midget kicks him. A fight follows that nearly wrecks the circus. Late that night, Echo outlines a plan to Echo and Tweedledee that is so devious that Hercules says "It's unholy," giving them the idea to name themselves "The Unholy Three." Some time later, a pet store has appeared in a fashionable part of town. It's owner, the sweet tempered Mrs. O'Grady, has an amazing knack for making parrots talk. Hector McDonald, a kindly simpleton has been hired to work in the store, and is very friendly towards Rosie. Mrs. O'Grady is in fact Echo in disguise, and he is furious with Rosie's constant flirting with Hector. Also in the store is Tweedledee, disguised as baby Willie, and Hercules, pretending to be the baby's father. Mr. Arlington calls to say that the parrot he bought from Mrs. O'Grady does not talk. She goes to the Arlington home with the baby, and while she is "making the bird talk," Tweedledee locates the safe where a famous set of jewels is kept. That night, as the three plan to leave to rob the Arlington home, Hector and Rosie arrive with a Christmas tree for little Willie. Too jealous to leave them alone, Hercules and Tweedledee leave to pull the job alone. The next day, the papers report that Mr. Arlington has been murdered. Echo is furious with his partners over the murder, but their fighting is interrupted when a detective arrives. He learns that Hector delivered the bird to the Arlington home, and pegs him as the chief suspect. The others catch on to this and plan to frame Hector. Rosie has fallen in love with Hector, and the two declare their love for each other. Echo and Tweedledee plant the stolen jewels in Hector's room and he is arrested. Realizing that Mrs. O'Grady can clear him, the entire gang skips town, but not before Echo loads his large pet gorilla into their escape truck as protection against Hercules. As Hector's trial begins, Rosie pleads with Echo to clear him, promising she will stay with him forever if he does. Echo goes to the courtroom where he slips Hector a note, addressed from Mrs. O'Grady, telling him to take the witness stand, but only to move his lips. While on the stand, Echo throws his voice and begins to tell the tale of "The Unholy Three." Hector becomes confused, his testimony stops, and the trial is about to end. While Echo is gone, Hercules and Tweedledee begin to quarrel, and the midget releases the gorilla. Hercules kills Tweedledee, then is himself destroyed by the gorilla. Rosie flees and is picked up by a passing car. As the jury is leaving the courtroom, Echo jumps forward and asks to make a full confession. Echo's testimony frees both Hector and himself. He returns to the sideshow, where Rosie joins him as her part of the bargain for freeing Hector. Echo laughs, saying he was only kidding and that she should go to Hector. As she leaves, Echo's dummy says "Goodbye, Old Pal." Rosie goes to Hector as Echo begins his ventriloquist act.
"Here is about the best bet from a box office standpoint that has come along in a while...It is a wow of a story in the first place...And there's another thing about this picture, and that is that Lon Chaney stands out like a million dollars. He'd done that before, but always with a more or less grotesque make-up. No make-up this time. He isn't all hunched up, he isn't legless, he isn't this, that or the other thing in deformities. He's just Lon Chaney, and he's great." ---Variety
"From the main title to the final fadeout...THE UNHOLY THREE is one of the most unusual and powerfully gripping stores ever unfolded on the screen...Then too, there is that master artist, Lon Chaney, in one of his finest interpretations." ---Moving Picture World
"Not often does one see so powerful a photodrama as THE UNHOLY THREE...Mr Chaney gives a brilliant, restrained and earnest performance." ---The New York Times
NOTES: The film was shot in 25 days at a cost of only $114,000, the lowest budget for any of Chaney's MGM films. It earned a profit of $328,000. The film was critically acclaimed, and was named as one of The New York Times 10 Best Films of 1925. The film was remade in 1930 as Lon's only talkie.
Also, check out lobby card #1, lobby card #2 and ad art and in my Poster Gallery.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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