His Debt (1919)

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Japanese film star Sessue Hayakawa was cast as just about everything from an Indian Rajah to a Native American. But this time around he played a Japanese gentleman in a modern drama that, while it doesn't lean too heavily on racial stereotypes, is still loaded with the prejudice of the era. Although Goro Moriyama (Hayakawa) runs a gambling hall, he makes sure its dealings are honest. He's well respected amongst his patrons, but when an American, Blair Whitcomb (Francis MacDonald), loses he accuses Moriyama of cheating him. It becomes a matter of honor, and Moriyama bets his whole establishment against a ten thousand dollar check of Whitcomb's. Whitcomb loses once again and later that night he makes an attempt on Moriyama's life. Moriyama is seriously wounded, but Gloria Manning (Jane Novak), a society girl, nurses him back to health. He loves Gloria and is horrified to discover that she is engaged to Whitcomb. Since Moriyama always pays his debts in full, he expects the same from Whitcomb, who shows up to make good on his check, which was bad. But payment, to Moriyama, is arrest and he calls the police, who hold Whitcomb for attempted murder. Gloria arrives to find her fiancé in the hands of the authorities and begs to have him released. She loves Whitcomb and points out that because of his race, she could never love Moriyama. Since he feels that he owes Gloria, he sends the police away and allows the couple to leave together. To modern day audiences, this ending would be wholly unsatisfactory -- Hayakawa is handsomer than MacDonald and his character far more honorable, making Novak seem like a fool for choosing the American purely because he's white.