This 1915 silent film classic from Cecil B. DeMille stars Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa, the first actor of Asian descent to achieve stardom in the US. Often typecast as the taboo, sexually dominant villain—and The Cheat is no exception in this regard—Hayakawa was, ironically, a heartthrob among American audiences and one of the first male Hollywood sex symbols. The Cheat positions him in a love triangle with a married couple played by Fannie Ward and Jack Dean, Ward's real-life husband. Despite being burdened with blunt, exoticized representations characteristic of the time, Hayakawa elevates his onscreen persona with a riveting, intoxicating performance in this propulsive, twisty tale of greed, lust and revenge.
With live keyboard accompaniment by Bob Merrill.
Programmed as part of the Asian Diaspora on Screen series in collaboration with the Dartmouth Asian American Studies Collective (DAASC).