Cast & Crew
In Long Island, New York, beautiful Elsa Carlyle is a compulsive gambler. Her husband Jeffrey, a struggling stockbroker, loves her despite her exorbitant expenditures at the gaming tables. At the yacht club, Elsa overhears Hardy Livingstone say the word "luck" just as she is about to toss the dice, and on a hunch, she bets all her chips. She loses and owes the club $10,000. Later that evening, Elsa accepts Livingstone's invitation to his house, and they motor over in his boat. Livingstone, who has just returned from three years in the Orient, shows Elsa his house, which is designed in an Oriental fashion. He also reveals to her the cabinet of his "past," in which he keeps dolls made in the likeness of his former lovers. The bases for the dolls are stamped with his crest, which means "I possess." Livingstone then attempts to give the dress of a Siamese princess to Elsa to wear to the "milk fund" society ball, which he has offered to host. Sensing hidden implications, Elsa refuses to take the dress. When Elsa goes home, she is unable to confess to Jeffrey her debt, and he lets her know he is jealous of Livingstone and does not want her to spend time with him. When Jeffrey's friend Terrell tells them of a hot stock tip, Elsa is unable to resist the temptation to earn more money and puts money she had been entrusted with from the milk fund bazaar into the stock market. Giving in to his apparent kindness, Elsa wears Livingstone's princess gown to the ball, but is horrified when she receives a phone call from Terrell that she lost all the money. Overhearing her conversation, Livingstone offers to give her the money. In exchange, he expects her to visit him, and be "a little nicer" to him. Elsa is unwilling to confess her troubles to Jeffrey and accepts Livingstone's check with which she repays the milk fund the next day. That night, Jeffrey arrives home elated, informing her that the deal he has been working on succeeded and they are now millionaires. She finally confesses to her gambling debt, which Jeffrey has already paid. When she asks for another $10,000, he reluctantly gives it to her, then secretly follows her to Livingstone's. Elsa gives Livingstone the check and believes her debt is paid, but Livingstone has already made a doll in her likeness and intends to possess her. When she refuses, he brands her with his crest and calls her a cheat because she welched on their bargain. Elsa shoots him and, horrified, runs home. Jeffrey finds Livingstone and takes the blame for the crime. At the court trial, Elsa is unable to repress the truth and shouts it out, then boldly displays her "tattoo" for all to see. The indictment against Jeffrey is dismissed, and Livingstone, who survived the shooting, is taken away for his crime against Elsa. Later, Jeffrey urges Elsa to forget the horrible incident, and she vows to play nothing but "double solitaire."
Ruth St. Denis
According to a Film Daily news item, some scenes were filmed on location at the Vernon Mann estate in Great Neck, and the Sands Point Bath Club, NY. Other versions of The Cheat were Paramount's 1915 film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Fannie Ward and Sessue Hayakawa; and Paramount's 1923 film directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring Pola Negri, Jack Holt and Charles De Roche (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 and 1921-30; F1.0650 and F2.0838). The 1937 Forfaiture, a French film based on The Cheat, was directed by Marcel L'Herbier, and starred Sessue Hayakawa in a reprise of his original role. La Forfaiture was the first opera to be based on a motion picture scenario.