Darling Lili Movie Review

Chances are you've never heard of Darling Lili, despite Blake Edwards as director and Rock Hudson and Julie Andrews as stars. Hell, audiences in 1970 barely heard of it, because it was a disaster on release. It's so bad it never even merited an appearance on VHS. Well, DVDs are cheap, and Blake Edwards is still alive and enjoying new noteriety thanks to a recent Oscar appearance... and Andrews is in the news, too. So why not put out a director's cut of what might be the worst film either of them ever made?

Problem #1 can be seen in a premise: It's a film that no self-respecting studio head should have ever greenlit, but inexplicably somebody did. Who in their right mind could have thought that anyone would want to see a musical about Mata Hari? Not even the real Mata Hari, but a Mata Hari-like character plying her trade during World War I.

Andrews is, believe it or not, a double agent. She's a German spy named Lili Schmidt (or Smith) with an incredibly lifelike British accent, working in Paris and asked to seduce an American soldier (Hudson) for information. The other side approaches her, too, as they think Hudson's Larrabee is slipping information to a spy... but they think she's someone else. Could Lili keep an eye on him? You can see how this is going to go -- she's torn by loyalty to the motherland and her growing love for Larrabee, and until this all comes to a head, we're treated to Andrews singing a number of period numbers and, yes, stripping on stage. (Don't worry parents, the movie's actually rated G.)

Julie Andrews doing a burlesque act isn't really the low point of the movie, it's that the whole thing is so rote and familiar. The Germans may as well be goose-stepping Nazis, even though Hitler was just a teenager at the time. Hudson looks all puffy and phones in his performance. And the songs are really nothing special. And somehow this story of intrigue and deception is meant to be a comedy. I'd blame the producer for trying to hire Blake Edwards (who gave us The Pink Panther) to turn another mystery into a laugh riot, but Edwards also produced. There's just nothing funny in the film to speak of, except maybe for Andrews stripping.

But seriously, if you thought The Sound of Music was hokey, wait'll you get a load of this.

The DVD includes 19 deleted scenes.


caroleeastman@hotmail.com's picture


This review is way off base. "Darling Lili" is a romp and loads of fun from start to finish. TheDVD version features Blake Edwards'director's cut, which really streamlines the proceedings. The striptease scene is still intact, and Julie is sizzling in that eye-popping sequence; she really gets a chance to show her versatility in this film as a British concert performer who is persuaded by her German uncle to do undercover work for his country during World War II. She is not quite as sexy in this one as she is in the later "Victor/Victoria," but she does have some very spicy moments and is in top form, both as an actress and as a singer. The opening number, which features a song called "Whisling Away the Dark," is particularly good, so good in fact that it does produce goosebumps. Andrews looks absolutely stunning in that sequence and the song is a breathtakingly lovely, haunting ballad by Henry Mancini. The entire score of songs by Mancini is excellent, as are Andrews'performances of them. The comedy in this underrated film is very much in the vein of "Pink Panther," and there are some hysterical bits which foreshadow "Victor/Victoria," Edwards' masterpiece and career-topper, which would be released ten-plus years later. While it is true that this film did not perform as well as expected at the box office, it was nonetheless very well received by the critics. The Los Angeles Times went so far as to recommend Andrews for an Oscar nod. The actress gives an extremely adroit performance in "Lili", alternating as the need arises between comedy and drama throughout this highly entertaining film. Rock Hudson holds his own as Andrew's leading man in the film. He also transitions nicely between the romance-serious moments and the comedic ones, and he manages to infuse his character, a U.S. flying ace, with a sardonic yet romantic charm that is thoroughly engaging. The aerial photgraphy scenes and battle sequences in the air are nothing short of spectacular. "Darling Lili" was considered one of the top ten films of 1970, and ended up on the year-end "Ten Best" lists of the great majority of film critics.

8 years 2 months ago
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Roger Harvey's picture

Roger Harvey

i can understand how DARLING LILI did badly in 1970, but not how the first reviewer posted above can find so little to enjoy in this sumptuous and innocently joyous romp. Julie Andrews is always delightful, and never more elegant than here, and of course her sung diction is as impeccable as ever, making each note a real pleasure. The Mancini score and songs are delightful; goosebumps indeed, and I have never heard a better performance of IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY. Incidentally, Jeremy Kemp and many of the WW1 aircraft are straight out of THE BLUE MAX, made five years previously--another once critically abused film at last receiving proper status. Of course DARLING LILI is nonsense, spies are not like this and WW1 wasn't like that, but that is hardly the point. It is lush, funny, exciting, and in many places poignant entertainment, with great stars doing their best and looking good, produced to gloriously high standards of set design, costuming, and cinematography sadly lacking in so many movies today. The intention of the film and the innocence of its plot come from what might be called a culture of goodness, which is not currently fashionable because it's assumed that good people and good actions are not interesting or as important as evil and unpleasantness--yet deep down everyone wants and needs goodness. I'd say to anyone of any age: get the DVD, sit back, and be transported to a better world.

6 years 2 months ago
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Darling Lili Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: G, 1970


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