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Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind(1944)

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Billy Gilbert and Shemp Howard, members of a vaudeville comedy team, share an avuncular interest in Jimmy Collins, the son of trapeze artist Paul Collins. Jimmy's selfish, social climbing stepmother Belle resents the boy, and one day she leaves Paul, claiming that Jimmy drove her away. Despondent, Paul loses his concentration and falls to his death from the trapeze. Soon after assuming custody of the now-orphaned Jimmy, Billy and Shemp find themselves unemployed. They manage to win twenty-five dollars on a radio quiz show, but as they are leaving the studio, they are mistaken for a team of inventors scheduled to appear on the Plumefeather Radio Hour. Although the audience is regaled by their impersonation, the announcer orders them to leave after the real inventors arrive. Plumefeather, the sponsor, is delighted by their performance, however, and wants to hire them for the season, but the pair drop out of sight. Later, Billy and Shemp convince café owner and boxer Maxie Rosenbloom to hire them as cooks, and the next day, they so impress a customer with their double-talk that Maxie decides to stage their act in his café. Belle, meanwhile, has discovered that Jimmy is the beneficiary on his father's life insurance policy. Determined to acquire the money for herself, she decides to seek custody of Jimmy and sends the child welfare board to investigate Billy and Shemp's guardianship. Although the welfare league is impressed by Billy's child rearing abilities, they insist that he be married in order to adopt the boy. After visiting a matrimonial bureau, Billy is besieged by man-hungry women. Dolores O'Toole, the hostess at Maxie's café, is attracted to Billy and to discourage the competition, she spills tea on the applicants. When the child welfare agency appoints Billy as Jimmy's legal guardian, Belle cunningly plays on Billy's sympathies to gain custody of Jimmy. Claiming that she regrets her former behavior toward the boy, Belle paints an idyllic picture of life in her cabin in the woods, thus convincing Billy to turn the child over to her. Dolores and Maxie come to visit Jimmy at Belle's house one day, and when Maxie's crooked ex-manager knocks at the door, Maxie becomes suspicious of Belle's motives. After Maxie slugs the manager, the group is summoned to appear before a judge and Dolores tells Jimmy that Billy misses him terribly. Upon returning to the city, Jimmy, Dolores, Shemp and Maxie find Billy coaching a boy's baseball team. After a joyous reunion, the group shares a celebratory dinner at Maxie's café. Plumefeather's representatives finally locate Shemp and Billy there and hire them to perform on the radio. All ends happily as Billy is employed and reunited with Jimmy.