The Cheat (1915) - This film really blew me out of the water. Sessue Hayakawa was a revelation, so restrained, and oh so magnetic. It's a shame he didn't get a chance to be a regular leading man (as opposed to the villain or the doomed lover) due to stupid miscegenation laws. The plot involves Hayakawa as wealthy trader who essentially buys the astonishingly foolish Fannie Brice after she loses 10 grand of her hubby's money. I thought De Mille made wonderful use of the simple sets, and through use of close-ups and tight framing really creates a moody and atmospheric, and often claustrophobic tone. The branding scene was particularly brutal, with Hayakawa displaying a sadistic quality that very few could have mustered. Oh and the closing courtroom sequence was astonishing. Fannie Brice finally reveals what Hayakawa did to her, and the entire courtroom packed to the brim with white faces absolutely goes ballistic. I seriously thought a lynching was gonna take place. Marvellously intense, this might be De Mille's best film, certainly his most restrained, and light years ahead of The Squaw Man.
I watched this and had a similar feeling about it. (One correction is the lead actress is Fanny Ward.) It is hard to imagine a court room scene in any other day being quite so action packed. I did think they were going to get to Hayakawa and I even lost him in some of the shots. Coming in at only 59 minutes it hurries along at a pretty good clip.
Another correction is that Ward lost money that was raised for the Red Cross. Hayakawa blackmails her to be his lover by paying her to replace the $10,000. When the husbans's investments come in he gives her the money which she takes back to Hayakawa to buy her way out but he is having none of it.
Watched with Epix channel. They have rather a nice collections of silent films and if it comes with your cable plan well worth checking out.