53 user 22 critic

Darling Lili (1970)

Set during World War I, this movie is a cute spin on the Mata Hari legend.



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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lance Percival ...
Michael Witney ...
Crepe Suzette
André Maranne ...
Otto Kraus
French General
Louis Mercier ...
French General
Arthur Gould-Porter ...
Sergeant Wells


WWI. Lili Smith is a beloved British music hall singer, often providing inspiration for the British and French troops and general populace singing rallying patriotic songs. She is also half German - her real last name being Schmidt - and is an undercover German spy, using her feminine wiles to gather information from the high ranking and generally older military officers and diplomats she seduces. Masquerading as her Swiss uncle, Colonel Kurt Von Ruger is not only her German handler but her lover. Kurt's boss, General Kessler, doesn't fully trust Lili as she is still half British. That is why it irks him that Kurt has entrusted Lili with the important mission of finding out more about the Allied air defense plans, the air which is becoming a more important battleground of the war. Of the five men who are most privy to such information, Kurt believes the best target is American pilot, Major William Larrabee as he is young, single and a ladies man. Lili is more than easily able to ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


For a spy, love is the deadliest enemy. See more »


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

24 June 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Darling Lili: Or Where Were You the Night You Said You Shot Down Baron von Richtofen  »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


(director's cut) | (with overture and exit music)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Loosely ... very loosely ... based on the legend of WWI spy Mata Hari, who was also a singer and dancer. See more »


In several interior scenes, Rock Hudson's hair style and sideburns are drastically shorter than in the rest of the film. This seems to give credence to the rumors of studio interference and the necessity of re-shoots. See more »


Lili Smith: But then, why DOES he drink?
Maj. William Larrabee: Because he's afraid to fly.
Lili Smith: Then why does he fly?
Maj. William Larrabee: Because he likes to drink!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Paramount Pictures logo does not appear in the beginning of the film, only at the end of the film. See more »


Referenced in Cinefile: Made in the USA (1993) See more »


It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary
Written by Jack Judge (uncredited) and Harry Williams (uncredited)
Performed by Julie Andrews (uncredited) and cast
See more »

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User Reviews

Stylish, Lovely and Moving; Satire With Comedy, Infectious Sense-of-Life
7 July 2005 | by See all my reviews

I suppose I like this film as well as any I know; it is not perfect, but under the title "The Americanization of Lily" this charming and memorable semi-musical satire might I suggest have been appreciated more, and still loved by those who recognized its special Blake Edwards'-produced spirit of gentleness, clever humor and solid narrative. The improbably but delightful story-line follows Lili Smith, a fringe-type spy for the Germans in a much simpler and less black-and-white war; Lili Schmidt passing as Smith is helping her Uncle who is patriotic too, for Germany but neither cruel nor political, merely opportunistic. Lili's target is William Larrabee, a charismatic U.S. squadron leader who can supply her valuable information. The plot thickens comes when Lili falls in love with Larrabee, has her eyes opened to the consequences of her playing spy, and sees the effects of combat on wounded men at a hospital and realizes what it might mean to his men whom she has met and likes. She gets jealous of a rival for Larrabee's affections, then realizes she can no longer do what she has been doing and gives up the spy business. The logical end of the film comes when after the terrible WWI has ended, as she sings the theme song of the film, "Wishing" in a darkened theater, one by one the members of Larrabee's squadron appear, including her lover himself, indicating they have forgiven her and their former opponents; and even Uncle Kurt enthusiastically joins in the singing of "It's a Long To Tipperraree", to indicate all is well with the world again. This is an audacious and sometime brilliant story idea, written by director Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty of "John Goldfarb" fame; and it is a delightful narrative. Larrabee's squadron, including an inebriate who keeps crashing and other lovable types populate this lively film; and the feel of this stylish and glowing film is almost epic, both in its scope and realization. Credit must go to Jack Bear and Donald Brooks for their costume creations, Reg Allen and Jack Stevens for sets, Fernando Carrere for another beautiful production design, Henry Mancini for his sensitive and appropriate musical score, and to Russell Harlan for his shining cinematography. In the beautiful footage, the principal actors are Julie Andrews as Lili, Rock Hudson as Larrabee, Keremy Kemp outstanding as Lili's Uncle Kurt, Michael Witney, Lance Percival as the inebriate pilot, gorgeous Gloria Paul as Lili's stripteasing rival, and many other fine actors in smaller parts. It is hard to say enough nice things about the pace, or the cleverness of the just-this-side-of broad comedy; this element is introduced by Edwards to leaven the horrors of actual warfare, to example the almost comic-opera approach with which men made war back in a more innocent-minded era of human civilization.. This comedy also helps prepare the way for Lili's conversion from uncritical acceptance of a duty to the German state to acceptance of the reality of what she is doing and potentially what she may be causing. This is a rare "sense-of-life" film about Lili's "Americanization", her assertion of herself in the real world and then among others before tragedy can happen. It is haunting, I find, and beautiful in many ways. I consider it to be Blake Edwards'masterpiece of directing; and under the title "The Americanization of Lili" I believe with hardly any changes it might have been recognized as the polished sapphire of a film it is by every standard I know.

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