|Hudson and Andrews|
NOTE: This review is of the shortened, more "serious" director's cut put together by Edwards twenty years or so after the film's original release. The DVD also contains nearly an hour of the missing footage.
Lili Smith (Julie Andrews) is a beloved music hall singer who visits injured allied troops during WW1, but she's also a German agent who passes along information that she gets from high-ranking officers. Her latest conquest is Major William Larabee (Rock Hudson), who is up to his neck in something called Operation Crepe Suzette. When Lili, who is falling for the major, discovers that there's a sexy French singer named "Crepe Suzette" (Gloria Paul), she assumes that she is the "operation" and decides to get revenge. Once you accept that Darling Lili is another one of those movies that operates in its own dimension -- there is little sense of time and place, location, or even that there's much of a war on -- and that it is not to be taken seriously, it's decidedly enjoyable on its own terms. Andrews is hardly the best choice for a Mata Hari-type, but she gives a good performance, as does the supporting cast. Hudson is okay, but although he's supposed to be Andrews' co-star, in this version of the film he hasn't much to do. Gloria Paul nearly steals the movie in her turn as Suzette, who has a memorably erotic dance number. The completely unrealistic ending has Hudson and soldiers seemingly ignoring the fact that Lili's spying might have cost the lives of hundreds of their comrades. Of course, the casting of "Von Trapp" Andrews [combined with the light tone of the film] makes some of her other reprehensible actions -- such as framing an innocent woman out of jealousy -- more "palatable." "Whistling in the Dark" is a nice number, well-warbled by Andrews.
Verdict: This should have been much darker, but provides modest entertainment as it is. ***.