Love, lust, possession, money, social standing, and addiction. Elsa Carlyle is impulsive and a gambler; though loved by her husband Jeff, she's spoiled and selfish, concerned with social standing. Meanwhile, Jeff wants to keep a lid on spending while he completes business deals that could make them rich. One night, on a hunch, she bets and loses big at a casino, then she doubles her problems with more impulsive decisions. Hardy Livingston, a wealthy Casanova just back from the Orient, makes a play for her. Elsa dallies with Hardy, but soon, his insistence and her dire financial affairs seem destined to lead to adultery. Who's the cheat?Written by
Two people who did little work on the big screen and were primarily stage folks, director George Abbott and actress Tallulah Bankhead collaborated on this remake of Cecil B. DeMille's silent classic, The Cheat. It was so watered down that it could have been called The Occasionally Indiscreet.
Tallulah is married to Harvey Stephens and they're both of the upper classes and enjoy the privileges therein. It's Stephens who makes the money and Tallulah who spends it.
She loses a fortune in 1930s worth of $10,000.00 at the gaming tables. She's not able to go to her husband, the money to pay the debt comes from the wealthy Irving Pichel. And he wants to collect the debt in his own way, the same kind of indecent proposal that Robert Redford had in mind in that film.
Half of the drama of The Cheat is lost when we lose the racial component of the original DeMille film. Fannie Ward and Sessue Hayakawa played the roles that Bankhead and Pichel play here and back in the days of miscegenation laws the idea of a wealthy white woman becoming the bought for mistress of an Oriental merchant was shocking indeed in 1915. As a result this film is dependent on the skills of its players, especially Tallulah Bankhead who was certainly one unique personality.
Although Bette Davis was great and The Little Foxes is one of her top five performances in my humble opinion Tallulah who created the role of Regina Hubbard Giddens on stage would have really been special. That and so many other Bankhead performances were lost. If you want to see her at her best make sure to see Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.
This sound version of The Cheat is all right, but nothing special.
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