LILI (1953) C 81m dir: Charles Walters
w/Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kurt Kasznar, Amanda Blake, Alex Gerry, Ralph Dumke, Wilton Graff, George Baxter
From The Movie Guide: "Leslie Caron plays the title role in this charming film. Sixteen-year-old Lili Daurier runs off to work as a waitress with a carnival and falls in love with Marc (Jean-Pierre Aumont), a magician who is more amused by the young innocent than anything else. Fired for paying too much attention to Marc, Lili is comforted by a group of puppets operated by Paul Berthalet (Mel Ferrer), a bitter ex-dancer crippled by a war injury. Though Paul is insanely jealous of Lili's affection for Marc, he is only able to show his tender side through his puppets (in the film's nicest moment, as Lili and the dancing figures sing the famous 'Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo'), and Lili thinks of him as a cruel man. When Lili learns that Rosalie (Zsa Zsa Gabor, in a surprisingly good performance) is Marc's wife as well as his assistant, she packs her bags to leave, but love wins out in the end, though it's not the magician who has the final trick up his sleeve. Caron is wonderful as Lili, Ferrer and Aumont provide handsome support, and the whole look of the film is just right. LILI was the basis for a hit Broadway musical in 1961 called 'Carnival,' with Anna Maria Alberghetti in the Caron role."
Leslie Caron, in a recent interview with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, said the character she portrayed in LILI "represented, a little bit, the inner self that I was then. I could put in that character everything I had lived through in the war, and the need for love and the desperate loneliness of this little half-wit felt very close to me." She also said that everyone at MGM laughed at her for doing the part, thinking she was ruining her career and destroying the image that had been built up for her. LILI, of course, turned out to be a tremendous success, both critically and at the box-office.
LILI won an Oscar for Best Score (Bronislau Kaper). It was also nominated for Best Director, Actress (Caron), Screenplay (Helen Deutsch, from a story by Paul Gallico), Color Cinematography (Robert Planck), and Color Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse, Edwin B. Willis, Arthur Krams).