The Cheat (1915 film)

The Cheat is a 1915 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, starring Fannie Ward, Sessue Hayakawa, and Jack Dean (1874-1950), Ward's real-life husband.

The Cheat
Directed byCecil B. DeMille (uncredited)
Produced byCecil B. DeMille
Jesse L. Lasky
Written byHector Turnbull
Jeanie Macpherson
StarringSessue Hayakawa
Fannie Ward
Jack Dean
Music byRobert Israel (1994)
CinematographyAlvin Wyckoff
Edited byCecil B. DeMille
Jesse Lasky Feature Plays
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 1915 (1915-12-13) (initial release)
  • November 24, 1918 (1918-11-24) (re-release)
Running time
59 minutes
CountryUnited States
English intertitles
Box office$96,389 (domestic)[1]
$40,975 (foreign)[1]

In 1993, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.[2]


This is the story of a spoiled society woman (Ward) who steals money from the Red Cross. She then loses the money, and in order to repay it agrees to take money from a wealthy Japanese man Hishuru Tori (Hayakawa) in exchange for favors.


  • Fannie Ward as Edith Hardy
  • Sessue Hayakawa as Hishuru Tori (original release) / Haka Arakau (1918 re-release)
  • Jack Dean as Richard Hardy
  • James Neill as Jones
  • Yutaka Abe as Tori's Valet
  • Dana Ong as District Attorney
  • Hazel Childers as Mrs. Reynolds
  • Arthur H. Williams as Courtroom Judge (as Judge Arthur H. Williams)
  • Raymond Hatton as Courtroom Spectator (uncredited)
  • Dick La Reno as Courtroom Spectator (uncredited)
  • Lucien Littlefield as Hardy's Secretary (uncredited)

Production and release

Upon its release, The Cheat was both a critical and commercial success. The film's budget was $17,311. It grossed $96,389 domestically and $40,975 in the overseas market. According to Scott Eyman's Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, the film cost $16,540 to make, and grossed $137,364.[1]

Upon its release, the character of Hishuru Tori was described as a Japanese ivory merchant. Japanese Americans protested against the film for portraying a Japanese person as sinister. In particular, a Japanese newspaper in Los Angeles, Rafu Shimpo, waged a campaign against the film and heavily criticized Hayakawa's appearance. When the film was re-released in 1918, the character of Hishuru was renamed "Haka Arakau" and described in the title cards as a "Burmese ivory king". The change of the character's name and nationality were done because Japan was an American ally at the time. Robert Birchard, author of the book Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, surmised that the character's nationality was changed to Burmese because there were "not enough Burmese in the country to raise a credible protest."[3] Despite the changes, the film was banned in the United Kingdom and was never released in Japan.[2]

The film inspired French film critics to coin the term photogenie to specify cinema's medium-specific qualities and was filmed with innovative usage of lighting that helped raise awareness of film as a serious art form.


The film was nominated for the American Film Institute's 2001 list AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[4]


The film was remade in 1923, with George Fitzmaurice as director and Pola Negri and Jack Holt starring. In 1931, Paramount again remade The Cheat, with Broadway mogul George Abbott as director and starring Tallulah Bankhead.[2]

The Cheat was also remade in France as Forfaiture (1937) directed by Marcel L'Herbier. This version, however, makes significant changes to the original story, even though Hayakawa was cast once again as the sexually predatory Asian man.[3]


A copy of The Cheat is preserved at the George Eastman House. This surviving version is the 1918 re-release footage which includes changes to the Hishuru Tori character.[5]

The Cheat, which is now in public domain, was released on DVD in 2002 with another DeMille film Manslaughter (1922) by Kino International.[6][7]


  1. Eyman, Scott (2010). Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille. Simon and Schuster. p. 113. ISBN 1-439-18041-5.
  2. Eagan, Daniel (2010). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. Continuum. p. 49. ISBN 0-826-42977-7.
  3. Birchard, Robert (2004). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. p. 70. ISBN 0-813-12324-0.
  4. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  5. Birchard 2004 pp.69-70
  6. "The Cheat".
  7. "2002 Kino on Video DVD edition".
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