38 user 19 critic

The Cheat (1915)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 13 December 1915 (USA)
A venal, spoiled stockbroker's wife impulsively embezzles $10,000 from the charity she chairs and desperately turns to a Burmese ivory trader to replace the stolen money.


Cecil B. DeMille (uncredited)


Hector Turnbull (scenario), Jeanie Macpherson (scenario)

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Complete credited cast:
Fannie Ward ... Edith Hardy
Sessue Hayakawa ... Hishuru Tori (original release) / Haka Arakau (in 1918 re-release)
Jack Dean ... Richard Hardy
James Neill ... Jones
Yutaka Abe Yutaka Abe ... Tori's Valet
Dana Ong ... District Attorney
Hazel Childers Hazel Childers ... Mrs. Reynolds
Arthur H. Williams Arthur H. Williams ... Courtroom Judge (as Judge Arthur H. Williams)


Edith Hardy uses charity funds for Wall Street investments in hopes of buying some new gowns. She loses all the money and borrows from wealthy oriental Tori. When her husband gives her the amount she borrowed, Tori won't take it back, branding her shoulder with a Japanese sign of his ownership. She shoots him. Her husband takes the blame. In court Edith reveals all to an angry mob. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


I will show "The Cheat," regardless of the Japanese trying to stop the picture. It is one of the best pictures ever made by any firm. And it is Paramount. (Print Ad- Urbana Daily Democrat, ((Urbana, Ohio)) 9 May 1916)


Drama | Romance


Not Rated






Release Date:

13 December 1915 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Marca de Fogo See more »


Box Office


$17,311 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(1994 alternate)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The surviving copy is from the 1918 re-release, and so the date on the check and the date in the newspaper have been altered from 1915 to 1918 in an attempt to make it seem like a contemporary film. See more »


According to the date on the check, the shooting occurred on September 17th. However, the next day's newspaper which reports the crime is dated April 27th. See more »


Edith Hardy: [lying about how she lost $10,000] I lost it playing bridge- I was afraid to tell you.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Fannie Ward's name appears above the title. The other two principle actors (as well as Ward) are credited in inter-titles with their character names as they appear in the movie. See more »

Alternate Versions

Re-released on 24 November 1918, with Hayakawa's character changed from being Japanese with name Hishuru Tori, to Burmese with name Haka Arakau. See more »


Referenced in Trente ans de silence: Ève Francis (1965) See more »

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User Reviews

A great fast early De Mille melodrama...cool!
2 September 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Cheat (1915)

America was not at war yet, even though WWI was well under way in Europe. So there is a detached charm to the events--Red Cross charities, parties, men heading out for a game of golf. And the characters, part of an early Long Island set: a stock broker happily trying to make money, his rich wife who isn't rich enough (she wants more gowns!), and an Asian ivory merchant. The wife is played with early frank energy by Fannie Ward, pretty well known in her day, and in fact married to the man playing her husband.

More eccentric is the Asian man, legendary Japanese actor Kintaro Hayakawa. The title cards originally had him as a Japanese merchant, but when Japan protested (they were allies with the US in wartime), it was altered in the 1918 release to a Burmese merchant. This is a little stretching it because he is so obviously Japanese (the tatami mats, the paper sliding doors, etc.) but since he's really just a Long Island eccentric it works out okay.

At just under an hour, the movie never has a chance to catch its breath, which is great. There are nice sections tinted yellow/orange or blue. (The second time I watched this it was all black and white, which was not as satisfying, if you have a choice.) The score is a bland small orchestra accompaniment, neither here nor there (this is what the Netflix streaming copy has). The plot is slight, in reality, with money lost and a desperate and sometime scandalous effort to get it back. A shocking moment two thirds of the way is its famous climax, a bit early maybe, followed by a trial. The movie didn't cost much to make (the same year as the hugely expensive "Birth of a Nation"), but it went on to great success, and is well preserved.

The title implies more than the movie lets on internally, but the implications are realized in some double crossing. The heroics of the leading man are important even if he's an unlikable stockbroker. In fact, one of the weaknesses here is the fulcrum of the emotional twists and turns-a stock deal gone bad. But as the movie goes, it gathers complexity. If director DeMille is known for his grandiose blockbusters later in life, this is one of his silent dramas (from before about 1923) where he has a great feel for content, human drama, and fast plot. You might even say there is a soap opera excess here-in the best sense. That's what keeps these movies alive. Improbable at times, and certainly about people leaving large, the plots of each, including in this one, are great to watch. The leading female here, Fannie Ward, is good in this kind of role without nuance. More interesting at times is the larger scenes, like the angry crowd at the trial (a wonderful moment involving a huge number of actors).

See it, yes. A great, straight up entry into silent films about domestic upper class problems, and therefore without historical or exotic quirks that would otherwise dominate. An early Cecil B. De Mille film.

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