The Golden Chance (1915)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

According to IMDB, this film was released just two weeks after The Cheat. Now, even allowing for the fact that filmmaking in 1915 was a rather different proposition to how things are now—IMDB lists no fewer than fourteen films released by DeMille just in that one year—that’s kind of amazing. Remarkably, The Cheat and this film were also made pretty much simultaneously, DeMille shooting the former film by day and this one by night. (I presume he slept at some point, though when is apparently not recorded.) This situation was unfortunately rendered necessary by the bad behaviour of Golden Chance‘s star Edna Goodrich,, whose propensity for an interesting life was aggravated by her fondness for getting on the piss, and DeMille eventually fired her after shooting most of the film and replacing her with another actress. Hence the rather hectic reshoot schedule.

All this backstory is probably more interesting than the film itself, basically a melodrama (albeit somewhat less lurid than The Cheat), revolving around a young woman (Cleo Ridgely) who’s entered a bad marriage; in need of money, she accepts work as a seamstress from a society wife, who gives her additional “employment” posing as a nice society girl to attract the interest of an exceptionally rich young man (Wallace Reid) her husband’s trying to tempt into a business deal. Needless to say, complications ensue when the young woman’s ghastly husband inadvertently discovers just how his wife’s been making that money. All this is kind of tedious, and you could never mistake it for an even remotely serious treatise on the class struggle and the rich exploiting the poor etc, but, as with The Cheat, DeMille and his cameraman Alvin Wyckoff enliven things with some striking visuals—there are some truly amazing shadows in this film—and there’s also a not at all bad climactic fight between Reid and the husband plus the latter’s unnamed slimy friend. I don’t know much about Raymond Hatton, who plays the latter, other than he had a very long career (possibly as early as 1909 to 1967), but holy hell he just looks the part here with an odd perfection. The ending is kind of interesting, too, oddly open for a film like this; the DVD booklet notes that the existing print is thought by some to be missing a final scene but then musters contemporary evidence that it probably isn’t. If that is the original ending, it was an interesting move on DeMille’s part; I’m sure audiences were meant to (and presumably did) think everything works out for the best in the end—this isn’t early Russian cinema we’re dealing with—but it doesn’t explicitly state one way or the other what happens after the final fade with things left unresolved…

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