A 1970 movie musical set during World War I
, directed by Blake Edwards
, with songs by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini
(as well as some authentic World War I hits).
Lili Smith/Schmidt (Julie Andrews
), half-English and half-German, entertains London and Paris on the music hall stage while using her celebrity status to gather information from her military admirers. Her latest assignment is Major William Larrabee (Rock Hudson), an American Ace Pilot
with access to vital information about how airplanes are changing the war. A chance reference to "Operation Crepe Suzette" makes Lili think she's stumbled onto an important secret; but the lead goes nowhere, and she begins to suspect instead that Larrabee is seeing another woman behind her back. The idea bothers her more than it really should ....
The production was plagued by problems at every step and only recouped a fraction of its cost at the box office. It has been to some extent Vindicated by Cable
, especially with the release of a director's cut
on DVD in 2007. While the mixture of musical, romance, slapstick comedy, spy intrigue, and fighter plane action doesn't work for everyone, the film has some undeniable virtues: it is visually stunning, the aerial dogfights are spectacular, and it is a chance to see (and hear) Julie Andrews at her peak.
Darling Lili contains examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Several, including Bill Larrabee and the Red Baron himself.
- Bad Girl Song: "Your Goodwill Ambassador."
- Battle Butler: Bedford, Lili's butler, always carries a gun and is also handy in a fistfight.
- Becoming the Mask
- Book Ends: The movie opens and closes with Lili singing "Whistling Away the Dark" at two different concerts.
- Butt Monkey: Duvalle and Liggett share this dubious honor, coming in for most of the slapstick.
- Clueless Detective: "We have reason to believe Major Larrabee is passing military secrets to a woman. You seem to be spending a lot of time with him lately, Miss Smith. Could you ... keep an eye on him and report anything suspicious?"
- Cool Plane: Loads of them. The aerial sequences were filmed in Ireland using World War I replica fighter aircraft, facilities, and support equipment originally put together for The Blue Max. Darling Lili utilized the assembled aircraft for thousands of flying hours and accumulated hundreds of hours of aerial footage over the course of two years. Pilots were drawn from the Irish Air Corps and civilian circles.
- Cultured Badass: Kurt von Ruger.
- Dark Reprise: Early in the film, Lili performs "I'll Give You Three Guesses" as a cheery, wholesome song-and-dance number. Later, after discovering her jealousy of Crepe Suzette, she changes it to a striptease.
- Falling in Love Montage: For Bill Larrabee, as Lili's just doing her job at that point.
- Family-Friendly Stripper: Despite its two striptease scenes, the movie still received a G rating.
- The Fool: Perpetually drunk pilot T.C.
- Glamorous Wartime Singer
- Gorgeous Period Dress: And how.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: Actually, von Ruger figures out that Lili's jealous before Lili does.
- Historical-Domain Character: Baron von Richthofen.
- Honey Trap: Lili's assignment for Major Larrabee.
- Ignored Confession: Duvalle takes Lili's attempt to turn herself in as merely a Grand Romantic Gesture ... until Liggett points out that she's mentioning some very specific details.
- Liquid Courage: In a scene deleted from the director's cut (it can be seen in the extras on the DVD), Bill and Lili discuss T.C.:
Lili: Why does he drink?
Bill: Because he's afraid to fly.
Lili: Then why does he fly?
Bill: Because he likes to drink.
- Mata Hari: Lili, of course.
- The Musical Musical
- Musical World Hypothesis: Firmly #3, diegetic. All the songs are either stage performances or sing-alongs.
- Old-School Dogfight: Loads of them. You can't get any more old-school than biplanes. (See "Cool Plane" above.)
- Red Baron: Averted. The nickname is never used in the film; instead, he's called Baron von Richthofen or just "the Baron."
- Run for the Border
- Shower Scene: Starts as a Shower of Angst and turns into a Shower Of Love.
- Speech Impediment: Liggett has a stammer.
- The Spymaster: Kurt von Ruger.
- Spy Speak: Averted with Lili. She makes her reports to von Ruger in straightforward language. However, she does have a book of codes which she uses late in the movie to frame Crepe Suzette as a spy.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: T.C. and Bill are shot down near a German air base. They steal the Red Baron's plane to get away.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: General Kessler is last seen when his car collides (at low speed) with Duvalle and Liggett's. His fate after that is unknown.
- Wrong Name Outburst: In an attempt to find out the meaning of "Operation Crepe Suzette," Lili accuses Bill of calling her "Suzette" in bed.
- You Can Leave Your Hat On: One character's hat, in particular, contains more material than the rest of her costume put together.