Edith Hardy uses charity funds for Wall Street investments in hopes of buying some new gowns. She loses all the money and borrows from wealthy oriental Tori. When her husband gives her the amount she borrowed, Tori won't take it back, branding her shoulder with a Japanese sign of his ownership. She shoots him. Her husband takes the blame. In court Edith reveals all to an angry mob. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The surviving copy is from the 1918 re-release, and so the date on the check and the date in the newspaper have been altered from 1915 to 1918 in an attempt to make it seem like a contemporary film. See more »
According to the date on the check, the shooting occurred on September 17th. However, the next day's newspaper which reports the crime is dated April 27th. See more »
[lying about how she lost $10,000]
I lost it playing bridge- I was afraid to tell you.
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Fannie Ward's name appears above the title. The other two principle actors (as well as Ward) are credited in inter-titles with their character names as they appear in the movie. See more »
My thought after seeing The Cheat early this morning is what if this film were remade today, how would we deal with the issue of racism which this film is saturated with.
Fannie Ward, white and rich society woman, loses her charity's funds gambling and to cover the loss she borrows $10,000.00 from a rich Burmese merchant Sessue Hayakawa. Hayakawa's deal however is that Ward give herself over to him because he's got a yen for white women. Later on her husband makes a killing in the market and she gets the money to pay him back. But Hayakawa's not interested in the money once the time limit is up, he wants her in the sack. When she refuses, he takes a branding iron and she is now branded a cheat. Ward shoots and wounds Hayakawa in a struggle with her husband's gun and the husband is arrested and stands trial for the attempted murder.
Now I count in this melodrama strains from The Merchant of Venice, Indecent Proposal with a little Fu Manchu tossed in for the oriental flavor. It's a pretty scary film, especially the ending which I can't reveal, but remember this is the era that saw The Birth of a Nation as a big hit. The Yellow Peril it was called back then, racism ran rampant on our West Coast against Chinese and Japanese immigrants.
The Cheat was one of Cecil B. DeMille's biggest silent screen hits and it made Sessue Hayakawa a star in the silent screen era. When talkies came in Hayakawa went to Europe and later to Japan during the Thirties. He resumed his career in American films in Humphrey Bogart's Tokyo Joe and it reached the high point when he got that Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for The Bridge on the River Kwai.
What Hayakawa endured was in many ways the same as what black players did in playing their stereotypical characters. I wonder what he must have thought of The Cheat in his old age.
DeMille made some really good use of the camera with the expressions on Ward and Hayakawa's faces telling more of the story than the title cards. Jack Dean who was Ward's husband in real life as well plays the stereotypical Victorian gentleman.
Still the powerful racist message of this film is maybe even more vile than The Birth of a Nation.
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