Ramon Novarro 'The Red Lily', Claude Rains 'The Clairvoyant'

Generally, I post my “Can't Miss” warnings days after the must-see movies have been shown on television. I've decided to try something different this time around. I'm sending this “Can't Miss” warning nearly a week before the two must-see films are aired on Turner Classic Movies in late March 2006. They are:

The social melodrama The Red Lily (1924), directed by Fred Niblo, and starring silent film heartthrob Ramon Novarro and Enid Bennett (plus a pre-stardom Wallace Beery), and the British thriller The Clairvoyant (1934), directed by Maurice Elvey, and starring Claude Rains and Fay Wray.

The Red Lily (1924) directed by Fred Niblo, starring Ramon Novarro, Enid Bennett, Wallace Beery

Both are incredibly rare, and as far as I know The Red Lily has never been shown on television, and hasn't been screened in the United States since its original release. (It was shown in Britain a few years ago, as part of a film festival. If I remember it correctly, film historian Kevin Brownlow organized the Red Lily screening. That print was in dire need of restoration work, and the flash titles - intertitles that even a speed-reader would have trouble following - were in German.)

The Red Lily is not a good film. It is heavy-handed and melodramatic, but it does boast an outstanding performance by the long-forgotten Enid Bennett, who at the time was married to director Niblo. Bennett's is a thoroughly believable - and quite subtle for the time - incarnation of a young woman betrayed by both fate and (at one point) her sweetheart. Novarro, for his part, gets way out of control in an unlikely role. He usually played good boys you'd want to either take home to meet mother or spank until he begged for mercy, but in The Red Lily he is a good boy who goes bad. Though much too mannered as the Bad Boy, he does exude a certain dangerous charm that is missing from most of his other performances.

Another good reason to check out The Red Lily: When the film came out, the puritanical critics of the era referred to it as “sordid" and “hackneyed," and its characters as “revolting" and “prime specimens of degraded humanity.” (Novarro and Niblo would both be better received on their next effort, the monumental 1925 version of Ben-Hur.)

The Clairvoyant (1934) directed by Maurice Elvey, starring Claude Rains, Fay Wray, Jane Baxter I've never seen The Clairvoyant, but I do know that Maurice Elvey was one of the top British directors of the 1920s and 1930s. And anything with Claude Rains - who acted rings around the nominal stars of his many Hollywood films, from The Adventures of Robin Hood to Twilight of Honor - is definitely worth a look. As per the IMDb, the film's tagline was “HEXED BY THE EVIL EYE.” If The Clairvoyant lives up to its tagline promise, we can expect Fay Wray to put her vocal cords to good use - as she so often did during that time. (Screaming, dear reader, not singing.)

You can read more - much more - about The Clairvoyant here.

IMPORTANT WARNING: If you're going to record those films, make sure to allow for some extra time. TCM's running-time listings for silent films tend to be way off the mark. The 85 min. running-time for The Red Lily is my own calculation (based on the film's 7 reels). If I'm right, The Clairvoyant will start at about 1:45AM Eastern / 10:45PM Pacific. If I'm wrong, well. . . better safe than sorry. Allow for some extra time when recording these films.

Sunday/Monday 26/27 '06 on Turner Classic Movies (ok, Sunday on the West Coast, Monday on the East Coast)

12:15 AM Eastern / 9:15 PM Pacific The Red Lily (1924)
In this silent film, a chance separation throws young lovers into the dregs of society. Cast: Ramon Novarro, Enid Bennett, Wallace Beery. Dir.: Fred Niblo. Color. approx. 85min. min.

1:30 AM Eastern / 10:30PM Pacific The Clairvoyant (1934)
A fake psychic suddenly turns into the real thing when he meets a young beauty. Cast: Claude Rains, Fay Wray, Jane Baxter. Dir.: Maurice Elvey. Color. 73 min.

Ramon Novarro 'The Red Lily', Claude Rains 'The Clairvoyant' © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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8 Comments to Ramon Novarro 'The Red Lily', Claude Rains 'The Clairvoyant'

  1. Jill

    I have a nice page devoted to The Red Lily on my Golden Silents' page here:


  2. scottlord

    The Red Lily has a fantastic ending, where Ramon Novarro is being chased through the city.

  3. Andre


    Your best bet is to contact Turner Classic Movies at tcm.turner.com. They should know if there is or if there will be a recording available.

    Good luck!

  4. Charlie Baltazar

    Can any of you help me find a recording of the score played in The Red Lily?

  5. Administrator

    Sorry, Walters. I haven't watched it, yet. But I have posted a query to the Novarro Yahoo group I moderate. Hopefully, someone will come up with the answer shortly. . .

  6. Bob Walters

    Have you watched it yet? It's 8 April and I have the same problem as Jenny above.


  7. Administrator

    Hey, Jenny,

    First of all, thanks for the kind words.

    Now, I don't remember exactly what happens at that very moment - police at the door, etc. - in “The Red Lily,” but I do remember that all ends well. Boy and girl end up happily together in the countryside. (I didn't watch the TCM showing of “The Red Lily” last weekend; I did record it, but I still haven't acquired the habit of labeling my DVRs. Considering that I have about 500 or 600 of them, it's becoming a little bit of problem to find any particular film. . .)

    No, I don't know Karie - or at least the name doesn't ring a bell - but I'll check out filmradar.com. Thanks for the tip.

    As for “Beyond the Rocks,” I'd say it's a must-see merely for historical reasons. I did go to the Academy screening, and I remember having a very difficult time staying awake during the film. Not a total disaster, but quite a weak vehicle for both Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. The most memorable moment in the film, as far as I'm concerned, is the bit when we see a crew member inadvertently getting in front of the camera. (I haven't read all that much about the restoration, but I'm assuming that this - glaring - mistake happened because the absent-minded crew member didn't notice the position of camera #2, which was used to shoot a simultaneous version for the foreign market. In those days - you may already know this - they printed two original negatives, one for the U.S. market, and one for overseas.)

    Or was I dreaming??

  8. Alas, I Tivo'd “Red Lily” and missed the ending, as did the contributor to imdb. So Ramon descends under the floor, with Enid behind him, the police at the door and then what happened? I NEVER miss 'Desperate Housewives,' and TCM can't schedule its silents correctly? I've been watching TCM since it began broadcasting in LA, but obviously blew it this time. Thanks for any insights!! PS Love your blog. Glad I found it! Do you know Karie from filmradar.com? Met her at silent films at UCLA. She emails listing of cool films, and often passes to new films that often fly under the radar. We all met up at Academy for Valentino/Swanson's 'Beyond the Rocks,' which will be on TCM in May. Worth seeing? You tell me. Some of us weren't that impressed. Best part was Swanson's grand-daughter's comments.