The Cheaters

Australia, 1929


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An embezzler, Bill Marsh, swears vengeance on a businessman, John Travers, who has turned him in to the police. Twenty years pass, and Marsh emerges from jail and establishes himself as the head of a powerful crime empire, with his daughter, Paula, serving as bait to attract wealthy victims. Paula falls in love with Lee Travers, the adopted son of Marsh’s old enemy, and begins to have doubts about her life of crime. Only after a series of tragic incidents is she set free to marry Lee and start life anew. This silent feature was highly regarded for its set design and ‘unusual sensitivity to the expressive range of the camera and their awareness of careful scenario construction as a key to emotionally powerful cinema’.
Cast includes Marie Lorraine, Arthur Greenaway, John Faulkner.
A sound version was attempted soon after but was not successful and was never released.

Curator Notes

Not wanting to dimmish the appeal of what they considered their best picture, the McDonagh sisters quickly converted their 1929 silent feature The Cheaters to a part-talkie using a sound-on-disc system. Their hurry was so they could enter the film into the 1930 Commonwealth Film Prize, though it failed to impress the judges and reviews were not overly positive. A later full talkie version of The Cheaters was completed in 1931 but it was seemingly never released.

– Curator Chelsey O'Brien

See how the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia restored The Cheaters

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In ACMI's collection



Paulette McDonagh

production company

McDonagh Productions



Production places
Production dates

Appears in

Group of items

Reel Australia


Collection metadata

ACMI Identifier


Audience classification

Mediatheque - not for children (ACMI classified)




Black and White


VHS; Access Print (Section 1)



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