Cast & Crew
Peggy Ann Garner
In 1860, Claude Mercadet is one of the richest men in Paris and lives comfortably with his wife Pauline and daughter Julie in a tastefully furnished house in the Bois de Boulogne. Claude is, however, a fraud. He has been living dangerously, running up bills and paying off one creditor with funds secured from another, and his house of straw collapses suddenly. Just as a bailiff arrives with an order to confiscate all his possessions to satisfy his long over-due tax bill and begins to remove all his possessions, Claude also receives a note from three creditors, Pierquin, Goulard and Violette, who threaten to send him to Debtor's Prison unless he pays them. Claude tells Pauline that he has decided to hold a reception for the Count de la Brive, who is interested in marrying their daughter Julie and also happens to be the richest man in Paris. Claude summons his butler, Justin, and tells him to invite the count and as many of his creditors as he can find for a reception later that day. Claude expects that his creditors will lend him money for the reception, as they stand to gain from Julie's marriage to the nobleman. Meanwhile, the cook, Virginie, talks to Thérèse, the maid, and claims that Claude's partner, Godeau, will pay back what he took from Claude when he ran off to America. Claude asks Thérèse to entertain the bailiff, who is getting drunk on his wine, then explains to Julie that they are bankrupt. When he asks her to marry, she is excited until she finds out that he intends her to wed the count. Justin reports that the count will attend the reception, but has brought Goulard, who demands immediate payment. However, Claude is able to convince Goulard to wait and Goulard even lends him five hundred francs, which he uses to pay off creditors waiting in the kitchen. Later, Julie tells her father that there will be no reception as she is in love with Jacques Minard, a bank clerk. Suspecting Jacques is a fortune-hunter who will quickly lose interest in Julie when he discovers how poor they are, Claude summons him. When the miserly Violette, another creditor, arrives with a bad cold, Claude prepares a phony remedy, then convinces Violette to invest five thousand francs in marketing the new "medicine." As soon as Jacques shows up, Claude tells him that he is a financial wreck, but Jacques does not change his mind about wanting to marry Julie. However, when Claude suggests that his imprisonment and poverty will make Julie old and tired before her time, Jacques agrees that she should marry the count. When Jacques rejects her, Julie thinks it is because they are poor. The Count then arrives and professes great love for Julie and details his considerable wealth. Claude asks him if he has any debts, and he admits to owing a small amount. After Claude leaves to consult with Julie, the count discovers "confiscated" stamps on many of Claude's possessions and, on his return, challenges him about them. At that moment, however, the bailiff reveals that he will be peforming a similar task at the count's home the next day. Claude and the count realize that they have been attempting to dupe each other, but decide to go ahead with the reception in order to assuage their various creditors. Pierquin is one they have in common and, as they have both assured him that they expected financial gain from an imminent marriage, Claude instructs Justin not to admit him to the reception. The reception goes reasonably well until M. and Mme. Pierquin arrive and expect to be admitted. After Justin informs them that they are at the wrong house and closes the door on them, Pierquin enters through a window and denounces the count as an impostor and a swindler. Claude's creditors then turn on him and demand immediate payment and, when he cannot pay, send for the patrol wagon from the Debtor's Prison. Claude confesses to Julie that he convinced Jacques to give her up. He then decides to have the count disguise himself and pose as Claude's former partner, Godeau, who has returned from America with lots of cash, forestalling the creditors once more. As Claude is about to be taken away in the prison wagon, Julie returns with Jacques, who swears that somehow he will pay all of Claude's creditors. When Justin announces the return of Godeau, the creditors are ecstatic, but Claude then decides to admit that for years he has been fooling them and that the Godeau who has arrived is actually the count in disguise. However, Pauline, Julie and Jacques insist that the real Godeau has returned, and Claude tells the creditors that he was again fooling them with the story about the count. After Claude talks with the real Godeau, he assures everyone that they will be paid in full the following day. Claude is grateful to the count for the help he offered and lends him money to get him back on his feet, thereby fulfilling his longtime dream of being a creditor.
Peggy Ann Garner
Jack Del Rio
This film's working title was The Great Speculator. Hair stylist Loretta Francel's name was misspelled in the opening credits as "Francelle." The Lovable Cheat was the first film made by Skyline Productions, a company formed by producers Richard Oswald and Edward Lewis. The play on which the film is based was not performed until after Honoré de Balzac's death in 1850.