The Cheat - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Cheat Reviews

Page 2 of 2
January 12, 2010
Edith Hardy(Fannie Ward), an extravagant sort of girl, gambles away the red cross fund on the stockmarket and finds herself in debt to a sadistic and stereotypical asian aristocrat. Well staged but the story is so dated and racist with a main character that is so unlikable that it's hard to stick with her.
October 20, 2009
Interesting to see how Fannie Ward's character developed into unwilling victim of the eeeevil foreigner in the end, despite the fact that she was singlehandedly responsible for the entire sordid turn of events. can't say I loved it, more of a film history lesson.
October 19, 2009
Fannie Ward plays Edith Hardy a free-wheeling, fun-loving, but ultimately irresponsible, wife to Richard Hardy played by Jack Dean. Fannie loves to spend money and party it up with New York's swinging socialite circle like there's no tomorrow. Although Richard loves his wife dearly he decides he needs to curtail her wild spending lest they lose their fortune and drastically cuts down her spending allowance. While attending one of her big social gatherings, an associate informs her of a sure thing investment in which any money put in will surely double the very next day!

As treasurer of the local Red Cross Edith is entrusted with all of their funds at which point they have $10,000 readied to be presented to the national organization at the next gathering. I think you can see where this is going as sure enough, Edith takes the money and give it to her friend. As if on cue, during the very next social party the friend arrives despondent and informs her that the company has collapsed and all the money is lost. Edith panics and eventually collapsed.

Fortunately, or rather most unfortunately for Edith, at the time this news arrives she is being romanced by a rich Japanese ivory trader named Tori played by the legendary Sessue Hayakawa. Tori is a major power player in the upper ranks of the rich elite in New York and he has serious designs on Edith. He uses this opportunity to pressure Edith into having an elicit affair with him if he pays off her debt and avoids the massive social embarrassment that would ensue if the news would become public. Edith, who initially was very entranced by Tori, now senses great menace but reluctantly agrees.

Edith returns home feeling rather empty and lifeless. Her husband bursts in and informs her that all of his investments have paid off big time and not only are they now very well off, but they are incredibly rich. Edith is at first elated but then the memory of the incident plays upon her mind and she falls back saddened. Her husband takes obvious note of this reaction and Edith quickly makes up a story about losing $10,000 in a bridge game. Her husband is suspicious but gives his wife the a check to cover the amount.

Edith later sneaks out of the house and meets up with Tori at his house. Tori has been calling her repeatedly wondering why she hasn't come over and Edith hopes that she can simply pay Tori the money and end the deal. Unfortunately for her Tori rejects the attempt at a pay off and labels Edith a cheat and a liar. What follows next is a very brutal fight as Tori throws Edith around and slams her down onto his desk. He pulls her hair and rips the back of her dress down and then brands her with a hot signature iron that he uses to mark his belongings. As far as he is concerned he has marked her with his symbol and she is now his.

Edith fight off the pain and manages to break away from Tori. She gets a hold of his gun and shoots him in the shoulder. She makes her escape just as her husband arrives who, suspicious as to what his wife's motivations truly are, has just arrived onto the scene. Richard Hardy immediate assesses the scene up and decides to take the fall for his wife when the police arrive. Tori goes along with this as it would mean Richard would be out of the way.

A rather quick but intense court scene ensues in which Richard admits that he shot Tori but refuses to divulge the reason why. The confused jury finally decides to convict him when Edith can take no more and rushes the judges podium. Despite the efforts of the police to quell her, Edith emotionally yells out what really happened that fateful night and to prove her point she pulls down her dress to reveal the brand that Tori inflicted upon her. The courtroom crowd can take no more and angrily rushes the judges podium demanding justice while the police attempt to hold them at bay. The judge throws out the ruling and the Edith and Richard are free to go.

A very early film whose techniques and attention to detail really belies its age. A technical triumph despite its rather mundane settings this film really demonstrates how good a director Demille would turn out to be with some excellent use of shadows and lighting. Then there's the incredible presence of Hayakawa. Although a very early film, Hayakawa quite obviously out acts everybody by actually bringing brooding subtlety to the screen as opposed to the more manic motions and overacting by his co-stars typified in early silent films. In a interview Hayakawa admitted that he tried not to express too openly his emotions but instead intensely thought them. This is really noticeable whenever he is on screen and his presence is quite powerful.

There has also been some labeling of this films having strongly racist overtones. As somebody who has watched a decent amount of early films I really just don't see it. Sure Hayakawa is the menacing villain, but his race is never an equation in the film and doesn't even come up as an issue by anybody in the movie. He is initially shown as an accepted member of the rich elite social circle and people are very much charmed by him. I've seen a number of early murder mystery pictures that I find you could have easily replaced Hayakawa with any typical caucasian actor and the plot and reaction by everybody would be the same. Of course you would be deprived of the great acting by Hayakawa.

But due strong protests by the Japanese government, later prints were changed to identify Hayakawa's character as Haka Arakau, a ivory trader of Burmese descent. But again, race is not really an issue here as it's all about the character to no matter how one labels Hayakawa's character, he's still the same person you see on screen.

An artistically interesting film with some strong acting by Hayakawa who sets the tone for future actors and how they will approach their craft.
October 18, 2009
Not that great plot-wise. Acting not so good. Kinda interesting to watch.
August 29, 2009
95 years later, it's hard to watch without a significant amount of discomfort at the "yellow panic" that marks the villain as a villain primarily due to his Asian ethnicity. The titular "cheat" is very elusive, though, as it could be referring to any of a number of lies, secrets, and double-crossings that take place. Taking a step back from its offensive portrayal of the Asian villain, as a DeMille film it still has technical merits and was a very popular film when it came out, launching Hayakawa to stardom that gave him the opportunity to atone for his caricatured Asian villainy.
September 28, 2008
The lighting is amazing. @_@ <3 The whole movie just looks SO high quality, at least compared to, say, Way Down East.

Also just a really fun film, and quite short. :D
June 8, 2008
Barnstorming melodrama from DeMille, with a society butterfly almost blackmailed into an adulterous liaison with a sadistic Burmese ivory trader. The film is undoubtedly racist and mob-handed, yet there's something in the direction which relishes both the exotic eroticism of Hayakawa's Burmese and his violent sadism - in the central scene, he brands the woman, bringing on screen a suppressed desire in the audience for depictions of S&M. The film certainly doesn't have a dull moment.
June 5, 2008
The first silent film I've ever seen. Unfortunately I only saw the last 5 minutes!
June 4, 2008
Sessue Hayakawa: A++++. Other than that...not really.
May 30, 2008
Still affecting 100 years later. Shocking to believe it was released the same year as "Birth of a Nation". Sessue Hayakawa, in one of his first screen appearances (and one of the first appearances by a REAL Asian in an Asian role) not only punches conservative tastes in the mouth, but delivers a harrowing, dichotomous performance as the villainous Tori. ("Manslaughter", the second feature on the Kino DVD, shows how far the art of cinema had traversed in just over a decade: the pace in cutting and performance is ratcheted up tenfold.)
½ February 23, 2008
Welcome to the Yellow Peril. This movie is a must for those interested in how Asians were vilified. The movie is over the top in so many ways it is a must see.
½ October 24, 2007
Edith not only sells herself to an ivory dealer, but apparently she also pissed off someone in the wardrobe department. Rough week.
October 11, 2007
I love Sessue Hayakawa. He plays the bad guy in "The Cheat", but women swooned over him years before Rudolph Valentino. His acting style is radically different from the melodramatic leading lady - very understated, only his expressive eyes show strong emotions. His success in early Hollywood was a remarkable achievement of an Asian man in the racist climate of the times.
½ October 8, 2007
Not bad early DeMille melodrama. Really kooky at times. And racist. A few nice moments. The finale is odd.
½ September 22, 2007
Unnecessarily difficult to watch. Does not translate well, and takes so long to tell a pretty simple story.
½ September 5, 2007
A sometimes cinematic, but often really annoying film. The court scene is as stupid as an Adam Sandler pic.
August 18, 2007
rather extarordinary early Demille flick. Somewhat rather nastier than anything on the American screen until Stroheim started directing a few years later.
½ August 9, 2007
This is very hard to watch now, but as far as silent films go this is pretty important. But certainly not anything I'd ever watch again.
Page 2 of 2