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Darling Lili (1970)

Set during WWI, 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:
Lili Smith
Major William Larrabee
Colonel Kurt Von Ruger
Lance Percival ...
T.C. Carstairs
Michael Witney ...
Lt. Youngblood Carson
Gloria Paul ...
Crepe Suzette
Jacques Marin ...
Major Duvalle
André Maranne ...
Lt. Liggett
Doreen Keogh ...
Carl Duering ...
General Kessler
Otto Kraus
French General
Louis Mercier ...
French General
Arthur Gould-Porter ...
Sergeant Wells

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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)


$5,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


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

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Most of the movie was filmed in the spring of 1968. 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 »


Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile
Music by Felix Powell (uncredited)
Lyrics by George Asaf (uncredited)
Performed by Julie Andrews (uncredited) and cast
See more »

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User Reviews

Sadly under-appreciated, Darling Lili is a charming spy operetta
26 December 2000 | by (Minneapolis, Minnesota USA) – See all my reviews

I remember seeing DARLING LILI when it ran it's short original theatrical release. I also remember being the only person in the theatre during the particular showing I attended. It saddens me now as it did then that this beautifully crafted and delightful film was so sneered at and snubbed by critics and audiences alike. Movie musicals made a brief comeback in the early sixties and peaked with THE SOUND OF MUSIC in 1965. Hollywood continued to make them and even though two of them, OLIVER! and FUNNY GIRL, were mildly successful, the genre was again on the decline. The movie musicals of the late 60s all died at the box office including DOCTOR DOLITTLE, CAMELOT, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, PAINT YOUR WAGON, HALF A SIXPENCE, SWEET CHARITY, HELLO DOLLY! as well as Andrews' other underrated drama with music, STAR! which I consider a companion piece to both DARLING LILI and Andrews' comeback film, VICTOR,VICTORIA. But even in 1970 the movie musical struggled to survive with not only DARLING LILI but two other large scale musical extravaganzas, ie: ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER and SCROOGE. Much salt was added to the wound when not only 'LILI' but also 'CLEAR DAY' and SCROOGE tanked at the box office. These films failed not because they were bad films but because audiences had grown cynical and no film was any good unless it was "realistic". It seemed that going to the movies was no longer an excercise in temporarily putting one's troubles aside for a few hours of nurturing the spirit and soul with beautiful singing and dancing. Critics and audiences seemed to have taken themselves so seriously that even their entertainment had to be a reflection of their harsh day to day realities. One was labeled old fashioned and unhip to enjoy movie musicals. As for DARLING LILI, I found this delightful comedy farce with music to be truly charming and funny. Julie Andrews is in top form both musically and dramatically. Not only that but her comic talents are equally displayed. She looks gorgeous in this film and like STAR! she dazzles us in her canny ability to retain her girl next door demeanor and be damn sexy at the same time. Of course her success in keeping the balance of wholesomeness and sexy seductiveness is in part due to the excellent directing of her director/husband Blake Edwards. Again, the movie's failure at the box office is due the audiences' inability to appreciate what Edwards was trying to do. They just plain didn't get it. Nor did the critics have a clue either. Edward's clever variation on the Mata Hari story mixing musical numbers and intrigue and farce and romance with World War 1 the backdrop should have been embraced by the public during the Vietnam years as a bit of reprieve and relief from all the turmoil of the times; not as a way to forget the harsh realities but to make them easier to cope with. But this was not to be. I sometimes wonder if this movie would be better received if it was being released now for the first time.

Besides the highly entertaining adventure comedy, the music is gorgeous. Ms. Andrews sings one of the finest songs of the period, the haunting "Whistling Away the Dark" which was tragically robbed of the Best Song Oscar for 1970. But all the songs are great written by Henry Mancini. The sumptuous sets, art direction and costumes frame the movie with grand artistic opulence. Rock Hudson is great as an American fighter pilot and he revives his suave, debonair dash reminiscent of his farcical bedroom comedies with Doris Day.

For several years now I have longed for Mr. Edwards to release a widescreen letterbox video release on DVD. To my knowledge there has never been home video version. I'm willing to bet that the DVD would do well in sales. Edwards could even do a Julie Andrews commemorative box set of DARLING LILI and VICTOR VICTORIA in gorgeous letterboxed DVD transfers with all the fancy extra features. Well, one can dream. If I knew how to contact Mr. Edwards and Ms. Andrews I'd write them a letter begging them to make DARLING LILI available. Heck, I'd grovel if necessary. I'd love to tell everyone to go out and rent this wonderful movie but I can't since it's not available. The only way one can see this film is when it's broadcast on cable - which I don't have. And even then it's not always shown in it's widescreen splendor. Often one is subjected to cable broadcasts of the film in the horrific pan and scan format which sadly upstages and obstructs the artistic integrity of the film. If I were Julie Andrews or Blake Edwards, I would want to share this lovely work of art on film in the very best venue possible: DVD home video in widescreen. So far, all we are allowed is an occasional glimpse of this little gem often crippled by pan and scan butchery via cable, a source slowly dying off with the emergence of Direct TV and the growing popularity of DVDs and DVD players.

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