Darling Lili
Directed byBlake Edwards
Written byWilliam Peter Blatty
Blake Edwards
Produced byBlake Edwards
StarringJulie Andrews
Rock Hudson
Jeremy Kemp
Gloria Paul
CinematographyRussell Harlan
Edited byPeter Zinner
Music byHenry Mancini
Johnny Mercer (lyrics)
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 23, 1970 (Premiere)
  • June 24, 1970 (Los Angeles)
136 minutes
107 min (director's cut)
190 min (original roadshow release)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25,000,000
Box office$3,250,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

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Darling Lili is a light-hearted 1970 American musical and spy film, written by William Peter Blatty and Blake Edwards, the latter also directing the film. It stars Julie Andrews, Rock Hudson, and Jeremy Kemp, with music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. This was the last full musical to have song lyrics written by Mercer.

Lili

Plot[edit]

The film is set in northern France during World War I, where British pilots have polite dog-fights with their German rivals.

On the ground, Lili Smith is a beloved English musical star, much admired by French and British pilots. She mixes with them at Cafe Can-Can. One American, Major Larrabee, has a particular interest in her. He organises a gypsy serenade outside her window and a night-time champagne picnic. However, she is actually a German spy. She starts asking questions about his squadron. Lili's uncle, who is in constant contact, is Colonel Kurt Von Ruger, a more obvious German spy and her main contact to pass information to the German authorities.

Larrabee showers her with red roses, takes her to art galleries and takes her on a row-boat. Although she is tricking him, she starts to have real feelings of love.

Ironically the French authorities think Larrabee is the spy and ask Lili to keep an eye on him.

In a restaurant a fellow pilot, Lt. Carstairs, lets slip that Larrabee is also having an affair with Crepe Suzette. Lili thinks that Operation Crepe Suzette is a military plan and reports it to her uncle.

The French authorities (Duvalle and Liggett) start to spy on both Larrabee and Lili. Lili deduces that Crepe Suzette is a woman. They go to Lili's bedroom with he French spying through the window. Lili accuses him of calling her 'Suzette'. He has actually said nothing but thinking he has, says that he said 'My Pet'. To escape his infidelity he then says 'Operation Crepe Suzette' is a military operation and gives her the made up details of the plan. Lili decides to believe the lie.

When one of the French tells her that Crepe Suzette is a girl in a burlesque show she goes to weigh up the competition. She decides to introduce striptease into her own usually straight-laced show.

When Larrabee tells the true story of his encounter with the Red Baron she mocks him.

Lili gets Larrabee and Suzette arrested for treason. While Lili is awarded the Legion of Honour at a huge ceremony Suzette happily tells the authorities all she knows.

Lili's maid and chauffeur (who are having their own affair) discuss that Lili is 'one step ahead of a firing squad'. The maid tells her the news from the paper: that Suzette said that Larrabee had done nothing and was in love with 'another woman' (i.e. Lili).

An assassin (Kraus) is sent to kill Lili but fails. She goes to the authorities to confess in an attempt to save Larrabee from the firing squad. They think it is just a romantic gesture and don't believe her. Her uncle plans an escape to Switzerland. They catch a train but Kraus tracks them down. However, Kraus is killed when a German squadron attacks the train. The British squadron (including Larrabee) fight them off. He sees Lili on he ground and tips his wing in salute.

The war ends and Lili is singing in Geneva.

In the final song, Lili sings on a dark stage surrounded by pilots looking on from the wings. Larrabee comes out and kisses her and the crowd cheers.

Cast[edit]

  • Julie Andrews as Lili Smith/Schmidt
  • Rock Hudson as Major William Larrabee
  • Jeremy Kemp as Colonel Kurt Von Ruger
  • Gloria Paul as Crepe Suzette
  • Lance Percival as Lieutenant Carstairs, aka TC
  • Michael Witney as Youngblood Carson
  • Jacques Marin as Captain Duvalle
  • André Maranne as Lieutenant Liggett
  • Bernard Kay as Bedford the chauffeur
  • Doreen Keogh as Emma the maid
  • Carl Duering as General Kessler
  • Vernon Dobtcheff as Otto Kraus
  • Laurie Main as French General
  • Arthur Gould-Porter as Sgt. Wells
  • Ingo Mogendorf as Baron Manfred von Richtofen

Production[edit]

Rock Hudson and Andrews kissing in Darling Lili (1970)

In 1967, Blake Edwards signed a four-picture deal with Paramount Pictures. The films he would make were Waterhole#3, Gunn, Mr Lucky and Darling Lili. Julie Andrews signed to play the lead in Darling Lili. Production was to start late in 1967.[2][3] Executive producer Owen Crump began shooting second unit in 1967.[4]

Edwards courted British comedian Benny Hill for a supporting role in the movie. During the audition, he asked Hill if he could do a Paris accent. Being a perfectionist, Hill asked Edwards if he wanted an east side or west side accent, but Edwards was not impressed by his attention to detail and recast the role with another actor.[5]

Blake Edwards suffered continual interference from Paramount executives while making Darling Lili, and it was eventually edited by the studio largely without his input. The director later satirized the problems he faced in the film S.O.B. (1981), which was also distributed by Paramount theatrically.

Movie

Edwards later claimed Darling Lili was budgeted at $11.5 million but ended up costing $16 million. He said half the cost was due to second unit filming in Ireland and he had pleaded with Paramount not to shoot in Europe due to the weather, but the studio insisted.[6]

Problems with the May 1968 protests in France led to much of the planned Parisian shooting to be done in Brussels, Belgium.[7]

Slingsby Aircraft-built SE.5A scale replica during filming in Ireland in 1967

Darling Lili made use of Lynn Garrison’s aviation facility at Weston Aerodrome in Leixlip, Ireland. This collection of World War I replica fighter aircraft, facilities and support equipment was originally put together in support of 20th Century Fox’s 1966 film The Blue Max. The aerial fleet included a Caudron 277, two Fokker DR 1s, three Fokker D VIIs, two Se 5as and two Pfalz D IIIs (all full-scale replicas). In addition, the studio contracted with Slingsby Aircraft Ltd to build six 7/8th scale SE 5s (the 'Mini SE 5').[8] The Paramount production utilized the assembled aircraft for thousands of flying hours and accumulated hundreds of hours of aerial footage. Pilots were drawn from the Irish Air Corps and civilian circles. Charles Boddington and Derek Piggott did many of the more spectacular stunts.[8]

Music[edit]

Darling Lili Cast

The original score for Darling Lili was composed by Henry Mancini. He and Johnny Mercer wrote the title tune, as well as 'Whistling Away the Dark' and 'Your Good-Will Ambassador'. Songs from the era were performed in the film, including 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary', 'Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag', 'Keep the Home Fires Burning', and 'Mademoiselle from Armentières'.

Release[edit]

The film had its premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles on June 23, 1970 before opening to the public the following day.[9] The film's distribution was badly managed by Paramount executives and Darling Lili barely got a release in most of the United States.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Despite setting box-office records at Radio City Music Hall, the film was a commercial failure. Budgeted at $25 million, Darling Lili grossed only $5 million in the US (the equivalent of $31,061,597.94 in 2016 dollars) with rental sales of $3.2 million ($20,157,287.37 in 2016 dollars).[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Despite being a financial failure, Darling Lili won a Golden Globe for best song, was nominated for a number of other awards, and was a modest success with critics.

Academy Awards[edit]

The song 'Whistling Away the Dark', music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was performed by Julie Andrews at the beginning of the film, pre-credits, and reprised at the end. Mancini and Mercer were also nominated for Best Original Score.

Jack Bear and Donald Brooks were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Julie Andrews received a nomination for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy, while 'Whistling Away the Dark' won for Best Original Song.[11] The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy.

Director's cut[edit]

In 1991, at the behest of Michael Schlesinger, then the head of Paramount's Repertory division, Edwards was invited to recut Darling Lili to his original intentions. This director's cut was 29 minutes shorter than the original release. A fully restored, new Dolby SR 35mm print premiered at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival and was attended by Edwards and Andrews; the U.S. premiere was at the Directors Guild theater in Los Angeles shortly thereafter, again with both in attendance. Then, after a brief domestic theatrical reissue, it was released to home video and television; this version was released on Region 1 DVD. The original roadshow version, complete with overture and exit music, has aired on Turner Classic Movies as well as receiving commercial release on Region 2 DVD in Europe.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^'Big Rental Films of 1970'. Variety. January 6, 1971. p. 11.
  2. ^Weiler, A.H. 'Big deal for 'Little Me': More about movie matters.' The New York Times, April 17, 1966, p. 127.
  3. ^'Julie Andrews will star in World War I spy farce.'The New York Times, March 9, 1967, p. 44.
  4. ^Martin, Betty. 'Evans on 'Planet of Apes'.' Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1967, p. e13.
  5. ^'Benny Hill-Merry Master of Mirth' by Robert Ross, page 73, B.T. Batsford Books, ISBN0-7134-8422-5
  6. ^Champlin, Charles. 'Critic at large: Tide turns for Blake Edwards.' Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1975, p. 26a.
  7. ^Wojcik 2011, p. 158.
  8. ^ abBodington 2009 p. 32.
  9. ^'Paramount's Summer Playoff Strategy: 5,000 Bookings For Eight Major Films'. Variety. June 3, 1970. p. 5.
  10. ^'Box office/Business for 'Darling Lili (1970).'IMDb . Retrieved: February 3, 2015.
  11. ^'Winners & Nominees Best Original Song - Motion Picture'. Golden Globes. Retrieved 8 August 2018.

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Bibliography

  • Boddington, Matthew. 'Shooting Lili: Flying for the Silver Screen.' Aeroplane, Volume 37, No. 8, August 2009.
  • Wojcik, Pamela Robertson, ed. New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s (Star Decades: American Culture/American Cinema). Piscataway Township, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2011. ISBN978-0-81355-172-2.

External links[edit]

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  • Darling Lili at IMDb
  • Darling Lili at the TCM Movie Database
  • Darling Lili at AllMovie
  • Darling Lili at Rotten Tomatoes

Darling Lili Imdb

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