(director: Charles Walters; screenwriters: Helen Deutsch/based on the story ‘The Man Who Hated People’ by Paul Gallico; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: Ferris Webster; music: Bronislau Kaper/song “Hi Lili, Hi Lo,” by Kaper and Adolph Deutsch; cast: Leslie Caron (Lili Daurier), Mel Ferrer (Paul Berthalet), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Marc), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Rosalie), Kurt Kasznar (Jacquot), Wilton Graff (M. Tonit), George Baxter (M. Erique), Alex Gerry (Proprietor), Amanda Blake (Peach Lips); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edwin H. Knopt; MGM; 1953)
“A vehicle for MGM’s new star Leslie Caron to shine.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Charles Walters (“High Society”/”Billy Rose’s Jumbo”/”Easter Parade“)competently directs this charming lush Technicolor fantasy romantic musical studio film, that’s a vehicle for MGM’s new star Leslie Caron to shine. It’s based on the 1950 magazine story by Paul Gallico ‘The Man Who Hated People’ and is written by Helen Deutsch. Gallico was inspired by the popular American puppeteer TV show at the time, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.
LiliDaurier (Leslie Caron) is sad and lonely that her father recently died and left her with no other family. The naive 16-year-old waif travels to a coastal French city to get work with her father’s old baker friend, but learns he also died. Lili turns for help to escape her dead-end existence to the secretly married carnival magician Marc (Jean-Pierre Aumont), wed to his performing assistant Rosalie (Zsa Zsa Gabor), whose traveling carnival is visiting her small town. Lili, not knowing the magician is married, falls madly in love with him, and quickly accepts when Marc offers her a waitress gig with the show’s cabaret. But when she neglects her duties to instead watch Marc’s magic show, he fires her. Crippled and depressive puppeteer Paul Berthalet (Mel Ferrer) tries cheering Lili up by talking to her through his puppets, as he hides that he has a secret crush on her. Paul can only talk freely to her through the puppets, and when she responds by sweetly talking back to them she gets incorporated into the act and becomes part of the puppet family. The new puppet act is a hit, but Paul when away from the act talks in a gruff manner to Lili because he’s jealous she still has a crush on Marc.
We learn from Jacquot (Kurt Kasznar), Paul’s partner in the act, that the embittered man was a famous dancer before his leg was injured in the war and now suffers greatly from self-pity, a lack of self-worth and a need to be loved.
The endearing way the two damaged souls come together at last and openly express what’s inside them, gives the delightful pic a whimsical fairy tale look and turns it into a deceptively alluring pic.
The so-called musical offers dancing by Caron during a dream sequence, a climactic out of place ballet and Caron singing the film’s only song–the catchy hit ‘Hi Lili, Hi Lo.’
REVIEWED ON 7/1/2011 GRADE: B