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The Unholy Three

(1930 b 72')

En: 4 Ed: 5

Lon Chaney used several voices in his only talking film about carnival performers turned jewelry thieves.

When a carnival is closed by the police after a riot, Echo (Lon Chaney) the ventriloquist, Hercules (Ivan Linow) the strong man, and Tweedledee (Harry Earles) the midget become the unholy three thieves. Echo disguises himself as the old lady Mrs. O'Grady, who owns a pet shop; the pickpocket Rosie (Lila Lee) pretends to be her granddaughter with the midget as her child. Rosie warns petshop employee Hector (Elliott Nugent) to leave that job, while the jealous Echo wants Rosie to stay away from Hector. By throwing his voice Echo as Mrs. O'Grady sells "talking" parrots. Hector notices that one of their customers was robbed. Echo accuses Hercules of holding out on the split and threatens to let the ape loose. A wealthy customer complains their parrot is not talking, and so Mrs. O'Grady visits the Arlington home with the child (midget), and they discover a ruby necklace and a wall safe. Hector buys a Christmas tree and toys; but Echo tells Rosie they have to pull a job on Christmas Eve. Hercules and midget go out to do so, and the news reports the next day a murder by jewelry thieves at the Arlingtons. Hercules shows Echo the jewels, and the midget takes some, which are almost discovered by a visiting police detective, who learns that Hector delivered the parrot to the Arlingtons.

Hector shows his bank book to Rosie and wants to marry her; but she says she was only kidding him. He leaves, and she cries; but he comes back, and she admits she is a crook. He kisses her goodnight, and she is happy with a ring. As Rosie is telling Echo she loves Hector, they learn that Hector has been arrested for murder. Hercules and Rosie, who have no disguises, say Hector will not go to the chair alone. They all scatter and leave in a car just before the police break in.

In the trial the jewels were found in his room; but Hector says he was trimming the tree; the others have vanished. At a cabin midget and Hercules consider killing Echo and Rosie, but Hercules can't do it. Rosie asks Echo to help Hector and promises she will giver herself to him. She calls him yellow and says if Hector dies, she will hate him. In court Mrs. O'Grady testifies Hector was trimming the tree, but she is discovered to be Echo, who confesses. Rosie tells Echo she will wait while he is in prison; but he tells her not to as he does not want to marry, pointing her to Hector.

The thieves deceptions are clever, but conflicts between them threaten to undo them. Echo heroically sacrifices himself for the innocent Hector, showing he really loves Rosie.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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