Haven’t heard of this musical, maybe you heard it under a different name: Carnival. If not don’t worry. Lili, released in 1953 by MGM was adapted from a short story written by Paul Gallico called “The Man Who Hated People” seen in the Saturday Evening Post. While it is not too long of a movie, about 90 minutes, it is still very cute, romantic and has some good dance sequences. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.
16 year old naive Lili (Leslie Caron) arrives in a small town to find a friend of her father who recently died. However the friend has died about a month ago. A shopkeeper tries to take advantage of her but is saved by carnival magician Marc aka Marcus the Magnificent (Jean-Pierre Aumont). Enamored with Marc, Lili follows him and his companions Jacquot (Kurt Kasznar) and puppeteer Paul (Mel Ferrer) whom Lili calls “the angry man” after he treats her coldly. Marc, upon learning she is too young, convinces the owner to get her a job as a waitress. However she pays more attention to Marc’s performance on stage with his assistant Rosalie (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and she is fired. When Lili tries to talk to Marc she is rebuffed. Heartbroken, Lili contemplates suicide but is stopped by Paul, who had been watching her, or rather by his puppets: Carrot-Top, Reynardo, Golo and Marguerite. The workers see Lili interacting with the puppets, and singing the song “Hi-Lili-Hi Lo”, and she is hired back. Time goes on and while Lili’s infatuation with Marc continues Paul falls for her, but due to an injury during the war he fears she will reject him. I cannot go into more without spoiling.
I stated before the movie is cute and it is. Leslie Caron is a very talented actress and dancers, one of the best at the time and she shines just as bright as she always does. Mel Ferrer is fantastic as Paul, you can see every time he looks at Lili how much it hurts that he thinks he can’t be with her. Aumont is pretty good as the womanizing Marc. I’ve noticed this in a couple of the Leslie Caron movies I’ve watched, and even though it was what happened back then it’s somewhat odd, but the actors who played her love interests are often twice her age and it shows. Sometimes it is odd, but in this case Caron and Ferrer have great chemistry. There are two dance sequences that are pretty famous in Lili. The first is Lili in a short waitress outfit dancing with Marc and Rosalie, but the most famous is at the end of the movie with Lili dancing with the puppets, but the puppets turned into the man she truly loves. The film also won the Academy award for Best Music and Hi-Lili Hi-Lo has become a classic movie song. If you have the chance to watch Lili I would recommend it.