The Cheaters

28 June
Location informationArc Cinema
Event cost$15 Adult, $13 Conc. (season pass available)

McDonagh’s pioneering silent romantic melodrama is set in Sydney and stars the director’s sister as the daughter of a criminal mastermind.

The McDonagh sisters, daughters of a Sydney doctor, made four pioneering feature films: Those Who Love (1926), The Far Paradise (1928), The Cheaters (1930) and Two Minutes Silence (1933), as well as some documentaries. Most of these films are, sadly, lost today.

Paulette (1901–78), the middle sister, was the driving force and acted as the director and screenwriter; Isobel, using the stage name Marie Lorraine, was the leading actress; Phyllis, the youngest, was the producer and production designer.

The Cheaters, their third feature, went into production as a silent film, although at the time cinemas were busily converting to sound. It’s the story of Paula (Lorraine), the daughter of Bill Marsh (Arthur Greenaway), an embezzler, ex-convict and head of a criminal gang. Used by her father at attract wealthy men, Paula falls in love with Lee (Josef Bambach), the adopted son of John Travers (John Faulkner), her father’s most bitter enemy.

The film was completed as a silent but during the long delay in finding distribution, some sound sequences were added. Location footage of Sydney at the time includes a shot of the incomplete Harbour Bridge.

- David Stratton: Guest Programmer





See more films in our Season: Essential Australian Women Directors - 10 Trailblazers Selected by David Stratton