The same actor appears in the Cheat. He has a small role in both of these two films that DeMille shot at the same time toward the end of 1915. In this one, he plays a servant to a fabulously wealthy ivory merchant named Tori played by Sessue Hayakawa- the future Oscar-nominee's star-making role. Gene Ringgold and DeWitt Bodeen's 1969 book the Films of Cecil B. Demille identifies the actor as Utake Abe. Abe's imdb profile lists many variant spellings and alternate names for the Kyoto-born actor who acted in a number of Hollywood pictures in the teens and early twenties, before returning to Japan to become a notable film director. Joseph L. Anderon and Donald Ritchie's 1982 expanded edition of the Japanese Film: Art and Industry describe the beginnings of (as they spell it) Yutake Abe's directorial career:
Comedy, long neglected in pre-1920 Japanese films, was now coming into its own, the form receiving yet further impetus when both Yutake Abe and Frank Tokunaga returned to Japan. The former had been working in Hollywood - as a butler duting long periods of "at liberty" as an actor - and came home just in time to see what [director Yasujiro] Shimazu was doing in the way of comedy. Abe's long American training had given him a profound dislike for the Shimpa style, and shortly after his return he began creating films which brought to the new comedy speed, sharpness in editing, and sophistication.Abe would make the first film to top the annual critics' poll held by the film magazine Kinema Junpo, with his 1926 comedy the Woman Who Touched Legs, which was remade by Kon Ichikawa in 1952 and by Yasuzo Masamura in 1960. Another film Abe directed that year, Mermaid of the Land, came third in the same poll, just edging out Teinosuke Kinugasa's a Page of Madness (Minoru Murata's the Sun, not to be confused with the Kinugasa film bearing that name, came second). Abe would continue a long career as a director, making what Anderson/Ritchie call "ultra-nationalistic" war films in the early 1940s, but continuing to work through the U.S. post-war occupation period and into the 1960s.
Interesting stuff, but perhaps a major sidetrack, as no other source I've seen confirms that Abe is the same actor who appears in both the Cheat and the Golden Chance. Many sources, including Robert S. Birchard's Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, identify him as playing Tori's valet in the Cheat. However, there are two distinct actors whose characters performed as servants to the ivory king. Either might be considered a valet, and the one pictured to the left is the one with a title card of dialogue in the film (the closest thing silent films had to "speaking parts" I suppose). The question becomes, how reliable is Ringgold and Bodeen's information? As a researcher I've grown to become wary of the accuracy of data found only in a single secondary source and not corroborated. I'd love to be pointed to another source with a picture of Abe, whether in the Hollywood or Japanese phase of his career. I'm on the list to receive Daisuke Miyao's book Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom when a copy arrives at my local library, in the hopes that Abe is discussed or pictured. Anyone else have any guesses on leads?
Whether it's Abe or another man, I remain curious about the actor who played an on-screen servant to both the heroic Wallace Reid and the villainous Sessue Hayakawa at precisely the same moment in film history. What stories could he tell of the film industry attitude toward Asian-born actors in Hollywood at the time? What would he say about Hayakawa? About DeMille? I'd love to know.