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Love, lust, possession, money, social standing, and addiction. Elsa Carlyle is impulsive and a gambler; though loved by her husband Jeff, she's spoiled and selfish, concerned with social standing. Meanwhile, Jeff wants to keep a lid on spending while he completes business deals that could make them rich. One night, on a hunch, she bets and loses big at a casino, then she doubles her problems with more impulsive decisions. Hardy Livingston, a wealthy Casanova just back from the Orient, makes a play for her. Elsa dallies with Hardy, but soon, his insistence and her dire financial affairs seem destined to lead to adultery. Who's the cheat? Written by
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
I love you. I didn't marry you because I thought you could spell or add, but because of who you are.
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A terrific Bankhead, some odd Chinese elements, and a typical decadent early 30s drama
The Cheat (1931)
The plot here is wonderfully bizarre and brazen, an early pre-Code film that still has a few creaks and cracks in its production standards. And the leading womanthe "cheat" I supposeis the wonderful Tallulah Bankhead, who is worth it alone.
Everything is pretty well contained here to keep the filming manageable, so there are lots of interior scenes that look and feel like sets, well lit and straight forward. And there are parties and flirting and the suggestion of impropriety left and right. Most of all there is that weird wealth that a few people had in the Depression as the rest of the country is sliding into ruins.
So Elsa (Bankhead) is a profligate partier and gambler, and her husband is a good guy who works too much. That leads, of course, to her finding amusement where she can. And does. But this gets her into money trouble, first, and then into a pact for sex that she doesn't quite realize she will have to follow through on.
A theme in the background, almost pasted on but with a certain amount of intrigue, is a Chinese them. One of the characters is wealthy enough and eccentric enough to live with Chinese decorations and customs. (This is not uncommonsee the bizarre Edward G. Robinson 1932 film "The Hatchet Man" and think also of the mahjong craze of the 1920s.)
Mostly this is about a woman's honor, and her realizing that her craziness has put her in an awful situation. When it comes to a dramatic climax, there is still a final courtroom scene that is pretty wild and fun. Check it all out. It's not a classic, but it's just odd enough and Bankhead just good enough to justify a close look.
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