Dream Cheater (1920)

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Brandon McShane (J. Warren Kerrigan) is a poverty-stricken young writer who moves into a room in the tenement home of Pauline Mahon (Fritzi Brunette) and her mother (Aggie Herring). Because of his association with a fickle young widow, he meets a mysterious Oriental who gives him a magic skin. The skin will fulfill all his wishes with one catch -- with each wish it shrinks, and when it finally disappears, its owner will die. Naturally, McShane wishes wealth both on himself and the Mahons, but then he is stuck with the realization that he is in a fix -- with the vaguest wish for a match to light his cigarette, the skin shrinks. Finally, he comes up with a solution -- he wishes the skin out of his life, and sure enough, it disappears. Relieved of his predicament, he is free to return to Pauline. This film took the novel The Wild Ass Skin by Honore de Balzac and changed its location to modern-day America. A quaint comment in the "Complete Plan Book" section of Motion Picture News (an industry magazine for exhibitors of the silent era) shows the strict morality of American society in the 1920s: "...remember that he (Balzac) wrote some books that are not in Sunday school libraries. So when using the author's name, you might mention the fact that the picture is perfectly clean."