Edith Hardy is a stockbroker’s wife in New York who spends money like it was going out of style. One of her husband’s colleagues proffers a lucrative investment, so Edith filches 10,000 dollars from the Red Cross, where she is treasurer – and loses it in the market. A Japanese art dealer offers to give the despairing socialite the money, but only if she agrees to be his lover. Edith accepts the bargain … The film, starring Hollywood’s Japanese star Sessue Hayakawa was shot by cinematographer Alvin Wyckoff, for whom Japanese cameraman Henry Kotani (AKA Kuraichi or Soichi Kotani, 1887 – 1972) worked as an assistant. For this cross between a marital and a courtroom drama, Wyckoff used the famed ‘Lasky lighting’ to create a sophisticated dramatic structure in black-and-white that was later often copied. The bright scenes, shot in natural light in a glass studio, cast frank illumination on the opulence of the American upper class, while the shadowy, ‘expressive’ effects placed the darker scenes firmly in the ‘Oriental’s’ secretive, sadistic, appetite-driven world. Following Japanese protests, Hayakawa’s character was turned into a ‘Burmese ivory king’ for the film’s re-release in 1918.
by Cecil B. DeMille
with Sessue Hayakawa, Fannie Ward, Jack Dean