THE MARRIAGE CHEAT was produced by Thomas Ince for First National release on April 5, 1924. On a yacht in the South Seas, Bob (Adolphe Menjou) jeers with his loose companions about whether his bride of a year, Helen (Leatrice Joy), might be pregnant. In fact she is, and in despair flings herself into the sea.
The natives of a rain-soaked island save her from drowning and take her to a religious missionary, the only white man there, Paul (Percy Marmont). (Chicago censors forced him to be portrayed as not an actual member of the ministry.) Helen demonstrates to Paul how to correct his methods of teaching the natives. She wants to stay, so he hides her presence when a supply vessel makes its visit.
Helen and Paul fall in love, and she gives birth to her child, a scene of special concern to censors around the country. When Bob returns, the missionary again lies to conceal her presence, but an attractive half-caste girl whose overtures he has resisted reveals the truth. Paul is ready to relinquish Helen when a storm breaks. He has the opportunity to let Bob drown but rescues him, although Bob later dies anyway. Paul and Helen are finally united.
C. Gardner Sullivan adapted the Frank R. Adams story, "Against the Rules." Ince changed the original ending of the husband committing suicide, to instead force the wife to chose between him and her child as she can only save one from the waves. Ince took a major role in the production, providing careful oversight and making creative suggestions.
THE MARRIAGE CHEAT had been originally estimated to cost $209,000, including $24,768 for the staff, $29,056 for the cast, $5,000 for publicity, $12,251 for the scenario, $2,157 for the wardrobe, $42,492 for the sets, $22,500 for 100 release prints, and a $45,000 allowance for overhead. The final cost was $266,322, with $71,365 in overhead, with director John Griffith Wray requiring four months to finish the seven reel production. (These figures come from the Ince company papers at the Library of Congress, a major source of documentation in my Ince biography.) Some of THE MARRIAGE CHEAT was shot on location in San Pedro, Laguna, and Palm Canyon, with Tahitian locales photographed by Max Dupont and Buddy Erickson included briefly.
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