The Cheat (1915)
“The Cheat” is a 1915 silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and it stands as a remarkable masterpiece of early American cinema.
This drama explores themes of morality, obsession, and the consequences of one’s actions, making it a significant work in the history of film.
“The Cheat” follows the story of Edith Hardy, portrayed by actress Fannie Ward. Edith is a wealthy and fashionable woman living in San Francisco. She becomes involved in a desperate situation when she misappropriates funds meant for the Red Cross. The situation worsens when she meets a wealthy Japanese ivory collector, Hishuru Tori (played by Sessue Hayakawa), who offers to help her out of her financial troubles.
Tori provides Edith with a loan but expects an exorbitant interest rate. When she can’t repay the debt, he demands an unusual and controversial form of payment. The film delves into the ethical dilemma Edith faces, and her actions lead to dire consequences.
“The Cheat” is notable for its exploration of taboo subjects, including sexual exploitation and the consequences of one’s choices. This controversial content contributed to its notoriety at the time and sparked debates about morality and censorship.
Cecil B. DeMille’s direction in “The Cheat” demonstrated his skill and innovation in storytelling. The film employed inventive lighting techniques and striking visual compositions, which were groundbreaking for its era. DeMille’s use of close-ups and dramatic camera angles heightened the emotional impact of the story.
Fannie Ward’s portrayal of Edith Hardy received critical acclaim for its depth and complexity. Sessue Hayakawa’s performance as Hishuru Tori added to the film’s controversy and contributed to its success. His character’s stoic demeanor and manipulation of Edith’s predicament are central to the film’s tension.
“The Cheat” left a lasting mark on the history of American cinema. It exemplifies the bold storytelling and filmmaking innovation of the silent film era. The film’s controversial content and exploration of moral dilemmas paved the way for future filmmakers to address complex and provocative subjects on screen.
Due to its controversial nature, “The Cheat” faced censorship in some regions. It was even re-edited and re-released in certain areas to meet the moral standards of the time. Despite this, the film’s impact and influence on cinematic storytelling cannot be denied.
“The Cheat” is a powerful and thought-provoking silent film that remains a significant work in the history of cinema. Cecil B. DeMille’s direction and Fannie Ward’s performance, along with the film’s controversial themes, contribute to its enduring legacy in the world of filmmaking.
Release Date: December 13th, 1915
Main Cast Members
Fannie Ward (Edith Hardy)
Sessue Hayakawa (Hishuru Tori)
James Neill (Jones)