One of the more regrettable losses of the silent era
Cecil B. DeMille's early masterpiece The Cheat (1915) was a controversial film about a selfish socialite who embezzles money, loses it, and gets a loan from a wealthy foreigner in exchange for sex before going back on the deal. This sordid tale of eroticism, race, and brutality proved profitable and it was remade three times within the twenty-two years following its initial release. The first of these remakes was made in 1923 and it was the only version of the story which has no known existing print.
This is regrettable. This version starred Pola Negri, a great talent whose versatility has been overshadowed by her off-screen life (most notably, her antics at the funeral of Rudolph Valentino, who had been her lover before his untimely death in 1926). Nonetheless, she was a fine dramatic actress, certainly a finer actress than Fannie Ward, who played the socialite in the original and whose acting technique consisted of wild gesturing and popping her eyes. One wonders how Charles de Rochefort would have measured up to Sessue Hayakawa, whose restrained performance as the lecherous villain in the original was much ahead of its time.
It's sad that this film no longer exists. It would have been interesting to compare it with the 1915 film and the subsequent talkie versions made in the 1930s.
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