Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ramon Novarro "The Red Lily" (1924)

"The Red Lily" (1924) is a silent romantic drama that stars Ramon Novarro, Enid Bennett, and Wallace Beery. Directed by Fred Niblo, it is actually about a small town romance that turns tragic. The story begins in a small village in French Brittany where Jean Leonnec, played by Ramon Novarro, and Marise La Noue, played by Enid Bennett, are childhood sweethearts. When Marise's father dies suddenly they are torn apart. Impoverished and alone, Marise is sent to relatives who abuse her. She runs off seeking refuge in her old home where she meets up with Jean and they fall asleep in front of the fireplace together. The next morning the young lovers are confronted by gossipy townspeople and Jean's class conscious father who disowns him. Jean and Marise flee to Paris to start a new life together. Unfortunately, through circumstances, they are separated and spend years searching for one another. Jean and Marise's lives change drastically in the process. She is a prostitute known as "The Red Lily" and he teams up with a clever thief named Bo-Bo, played by Wallace Beery, and runs from the law.
r Marise, the police arrive to arrest him. Jean is imprisoned once again and Marise is left alone. Will Jean and Marise ever reunite? "The Red Lily" is a deeply moving film that encompasses the many trials and tribulations of love. The cinematography is quite breathtaking with its brightly tinted shades of sepia, red, and orange to convey a complexity of mood and emotion. The scenes of the Paris slums are full of villainous characters and appropriately gloomy. Under the superb direction of Fred Niblo, who was Enid Bennett's husband at the time, both Bennett and Novarro give remarkable performances. Bennett's transformation from a peasant girl to a prostitute demonstrates her skill as an actress. It is heartbreaking to see Novarro make the transition from a wholesome young man to a hardened thief. Even though Novarro was a screen idol in the Latin Lover category, he was highly celebrated for both his good looks and his acting ability. By the time he starred in "The Red Lily," Novarro had played leading roles in quality films such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1922) and "Scaramouche" (1923).Novarro would work often with great directors, including not only Niblo but Rex Ingram, Ernst Lubitsch, and Jacques Feyder. Ironically, it was Niblo who directed Novarro in "Ben-Hur" (1925), the film that made him a major star. A largely forgotten gem of the silent era, "The Red Lily" is a deeply moving tale of fate, tragedy, and redemption.
When Jean and Marise finally meet again, they hardly recognize one another. Jean is shocked at Marise's degrading lifestyle and rejects her. When Jean is shot while avoiding the police, Marise nurses him back to health. However, Jean still spurns Marise and at his underground hangout he encourages the others to taunt her. Just as Jean experiences the last pangs of compassion fo


  1. Silent, The Red Lily,sounds like a really good movie. When I first saw the pictures you posted with your review. Enid Bennett, reminded me of Lillian Gish.

  2. Dawn, I also think that Bennett resembles Gish so much. They even share similar acting styles and gestures. "The Red Lily" is such a beautiful and moving film. I loved the film so much I bought the DVD from the Warner Archives for $17.00.


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