Yellow Pawn (1916)

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An artist (Wallace Reid) is in the countryside, painting, when he meets a girl in a roadster (Cleo Ridgely). They fall in love, but the girl marries a lawyer for his money. She should have waited -- the artist becomes a huge success, commanding a thousand dollars for a portrait sitting (a small fortune in those days). The girl convinces her husband to let the artist paint her, but one night while she is visiting his studio, a thieving relative of his enters and is killed by the Oriental servant. To protect the girl, the artist allows himself to be accused of the murder. Her husband happens to be the prosecuting attorney, and when she reveals she was at the artist's home the night of the murder, he prepares to shoot the artist himself. But before he can raise his gun, the servant stabs him to death. Thus the two lovers are reunited. The film opens with, and often cuts to a motif of a chessboard, with the characters as pawns, and "the hand of Fate" moving their positions around. It seems like a corny device now, but it was considered something novel back in the 1910s.