Released 7/04/30 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Jack Conway; Screenplay: J. G. Nugent and Elliot Nugent, from a story by Clarence Aaron Robbins; Cinematography: Percy Hilburn; Recording Director: Douglas Shearer; Art Director: Cedric Gibbons; Film Editor: Frank Sullivan; Wardrobe: David Cox; Recording Engineer: Anstruther MacDonald; 8 reels (8263'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Echo), Lila Lee (Rosie), Elliot Nugent (Hector), Harry Earles (Tweedledee), John Miljan (Prosecuting Attorney), Ivan Linow (Hercules), Clarence Burton (Regan), Crauford Kent (Defense Attorney)
SYNOPSIS: This sound remake of the 1925 version of THE UNHOLY THREE is virtually identical to the silent version with the few exceptions noted here. At the climax, Mrs. O'Grady arrives in court to testify on Hector's behalf. Under the strain of the cross-examination, Echo's voice cracks, and the prosecuting attorney pulls off his wig. Echo's subsequent confession clears Hector, but Echo is sent to prison. In the final scene, Hector and Rosie wave goodbye as Echo is sent off to prison by train.
"The 'man of many faces' bids fair to also become 'the man of many voices.' This fact was apparent after a preview peek at Lon Chaney's initial venture into talkers...It is hard to understand the original hulabaloo about Chaney refusing to talk in pictures, unless it was a clever publicity build up to focus attention on his first talker." ---Motion Picture News
"The finest thing about this picture is that it discloses Lon Chaney's natural voice just exactly as it should be---deep, vibrant, and perfectly poised." ---Photoplay
"While THE UNHOLY THREE is notable as a vehicle for the actor's vocal gymnastics, those persons whose memories carry them back several years might prefer the silent version to the present one. The theme of the play...is made a bit less gripping by its more audible additions...(Chaney) has destroyed the effect of the phrase, 'See your favorite actor; he speaks.' For while others were loudly proclaiming the finding of a forgotten note, he quietly went fishing and came back with five. The industry will never be the same again." -- -The New York Times
"When released as a silent...this film had a quality of strained and macabre horror which was largely dependent on the fact that none of the participants in its gruesome goings-on was able to make himself heard...As a talkie, THE UNHOLY THREE is less hair-raising because its sounds have become explicit...Lon Chaney, speaking as ventriloquist, parrot, old lady or Echo, is as successful in disguising his vocal cords as he has always been in distorting his appearance." ---Time
NOTES: If the accountants were worried about Chaney's popularity slipping, their fears were unfounded. THE UNHOLY THREE earned a very healthy $375,000 in profits. It was shot in 27 days, 2 days longer than the silent version, at a cost of $279,000, more than twice the cost of the silent. Except for Charlie Chaplin, who would wait until 1940 to speak on screen, Chaney was the last major silent star to make a talkie, and the release of his first talking picture was nearly as newsworthy as Garbo's first spoken words, heard some months earlier. Chaney was reluctant to enter talking pictures, partly because at that point he already knew he was dying of lung cancer. He was enticed into the picture by the offer of a $50,000 bonus to be paid upon his successful completion of the picture.
Largely as a publicity stunt, Chaney signed a notarized statement attesting to his versatile voice work in THE UNHOLY THREE. The statement read: I, LON CHANEY, being first duly sworn, depose and say: In the photoplay entitled "The Unholy Three" produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation, all voice reproductions which purport to be reproductions of my voice, to wit, the ventriloquist's, the old woman's, the dummy's, the parrot's, and the girl's, are actual reproductions of my own voice, and in no place in said photoplay or in any of the various characters portrayed by me in said photoplay was a "double" or substitute used for my voice. Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 19th day of May, 1930, J. L. Hendrickson, Notary Public in and for the county of Los Angeles, State of California.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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