Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Julie Bounces Back in "Lili"

Cleveland Press July 9, 1970

After some wildly successful movies and several others that were bigger box office flops than a racial film playing the Deep South there came to be a theory about Julie Andrews' movies -- among those of us who sit around and theorize about Julie Andrews' movies, that is.

It went like this -- that if you keep her in musicals, fine; but put her in a drama and look out.

Then along came "Star," a biographical film with music, and that theory went the way of the one about the earth being flat. A foreign art film playing Cleveland's West Side would have done better.

Now comes "Darling Lili" and while it may never be the blockbuster that "Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" were it doesn't look like a turkey either.

IT IS SUCCESSFUL because it is the unreal Julie Andrews who stands up. It is a film in which she sings, dances and romances and plays a World War I spy in the employ of the Kaiser.

This is not a movie that tells it like it is or was but like it never was or ever could be.

It puts a strain on neither Miss Andrews nor her audiences. Her forte is froth and the more bubbles the better.

SHE IS DOING what she does best and what her fans expect her to do.

"Lili" has its flaws but its star is not among them.

The picture is a comedy musical much of the time and when it is it is successful. But there are moments that are neither funny nor tuneful but merely melodramatic. The result is an unevenness, a gap in the bubbles and a resulting flatness.

WE FIRST MEET our heroine getting an ovation from a music hall audience for a number she has just done, then calming them as a German Zeppelin causes the air raid sirens to sound off. She stops the panic by singing "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile."

It's a schmaltzy moment but the kind that works. The movie also includes 'It's A Long, long Way to Tipperary,""Keep the Home Fires Burning" and "Mademoiselle From Armentieres."

ADDITIONAL TUNES are by Henry Mancini with Iyrics by Johnny Mercer and while none of them will ever replace the World War I items they are pleasant and in keeping with the period.

Lili is really a spy and her boss is Jeremy Kemp, posing as a Swiss uncle and really a German master spy. Target for tonight and several nights to come is the intrepid American flier, Rock Hudson.

NATURALLY ROMANCE blooms and predictably it doesn't run smoothly. It is mostly hokey and cliche-ridden, including the all night parties until only a lone violinist remains in attendance on the couple, all others having long since fallen asleep.

The problem in the movie is to get Lili turned around so that she is on the side of the good guys and it is a problem that is never reasonably solved. Matters even get a bit gory but there is a happy ending tacked on, almost as an epilogue.

PART OF THE film's unevenness is an unevenness in characters. The Germans are all deadly and efficient while two French detectives are a couple of slapstick comic opera bunglers.

The movie includes some finely staged aerial dog fights with recreations of those colorful but awkward World War I planes. The scenes have nothing to do with the musical comedy but they are good in themselves.

THE BATTLES are between Rock Hudson's squadron and that of Baron von Richthofen, the Red Baron himself.

Kemp is smoothly villainous and Lance Percival is wonderfully funny as a flier who only goes up when he is tipsy. Rock Hudson repeats his performances from those old Doris Day comedies only this time in uniform. Fortunately he doesn't have to sing. He doesn't act much, either.