This month’s silent movie is The Red Lily, an emotional drama from 1924, running time 81 minutes. The movie was co-written and directed by Fred Niblo. It stars Ramon Novarro, best known for playing the title character in the epic Ben-Hur (1925); Enid Bennett; and Wallace Beery who would go on to become a major star in the 1930s.
The Red Lily is the tale of two young sweethearts who become separated by cruel circumstances. It begins in Brittany, France, in a country village. Marise La Noue (Enid Bennett) and Jean Leonnec (Ramon Novarro) hope to marry. When Marise’s father dies suddenly, she becomes a pauper and she is forced to live with her awful next of kin. Jean's rich father doesn't want his son marrying a penniless girl like Marise.
Marise escapes her relatives. She seeks refuge in the house that was formerly her home. Jean sees Marise's candle in the empty house and he investigates. Marise cuddles with her boyfriend Jean by the fireplace and they fall asleep. Although they do nothing improper overnight, it is scandalous.
Jean takes Marise on a train to Paris, where they hope to start a new life together. Unfortunately things go all wrong for them. When Jean goes out seeking someone to marry them, two men force Jean on a train back by to Brittany. Meanwhile Marise waits alone in the train station. By the time Jean is able to return, hours and hours later, Marise is gone. Marise wrongly assumed that she was abandoned.
Life in the big city of Paris takes a tragic toll on both Marise and Jean. They can't find each other. Marise works jobs that go from menial, to unsavory, to disreputable. Jean who wrongly thought the gendarmes, the French police, were after him, gets involved in crime with the thief Bobo (Wallace Beery), and gives the gendarmes reason to chase him.
Jean continues to looks for Marise, the girl with the face of an angel. But when an injured Jean is saved by a bedraggled Marise, he doesn't recognize her. When she tries to get close to him, her shuns her. Marise cares for Jean even though he treats her badly. After Jean throws Marise into a bar's backroom with an ugly man, and she fights the man tooth and nail, he realizes she is not a mere streetwalker.
Eventually Jean recognizes Marise, when it's nearly too late. The former sweethearts, who each lost their innocence, are in the end together. There's a nice happy ending.
The Red Lily is a fine silent drama. There are many striking scenes. Yet it shows decadent places and is far from cheery. I cared for the couple's fate and was drawn into their story. All the acting was well done. Enid Bennett made you feel for her wronged character. Handsome Ramon Novarro had screen presence. I would recommend this movie.