Carmen with The Cheat
Carmen (Lasky-Paramount, 1915) stars famed Metropolitan Opera soprano Geraldine Farrar in her most famous role on stage and screen. Her high-spirited and erotic performance dominates this vibrant film adaptation of Prosper Merimee’s story and Georges Bizet's opera. Also featured in the cast are the tragic matinee idol Wallace Reid and DeMille's long-time collaborator Jeanie Macpherson. Produced on a relatively modest scale, Carmen shares much with DeMille's earlier work and anticipates his more mature efforts.
Following her triumphant success with the 1914-1915 Metropolitan Opera season, Geraldine Farrar was forced to cancel her annual European concert tour due to the war. Producer Jesse Lasky jumped at the chance of signing the opera star for three pictures to be made in Hollywood and personally directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Despite DeMille's concerns that Farrar, a master of the ‘grand’ performance and gesture of the stage, would not be comfortable in front of the movie camera, she was a natural. Charming, believable and capable of great range, she lit up the screen just as she created excitement on the operatic stage.
The Cheat establishes the familiar DeMille narrative formula wherein a wayward wife's impulsive indiscretions propel her into public scandal, private shame and marital turmoil. Gambling away the Red Cross funds she has been entrusted with, the social-climbing Edith Hardy (Fannie Ward) must turn to Arakau, an Asian ivory trader (Sessue Hayakawa) to cover the loss and save her reputation. But by accepting the loan, Edith has become Arakau's property, signified by a brand he burns into her naked back. In a state of hysteria, Edith shoots her captor, a crime that is pinned on her husband, Richard (Jack Dean).
Produced for DVD by David Shepard
Geraldine Farrar, Wallace Reid, Fannie Ward, Sessue Hayakawa, Charlie Chaplin