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Lili (1953), starring Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kurt Kasznar
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Lili (1953), starring Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kurt Kasznar

Synopsis of Lili

In Lili, a 16-year-old French orphan joins a carnival after her father’s death. She find a home ith a curious puppet show. The embittered puppeteer shows contempt for her …. But he’s secretly falling in love with the young lady.


Buy from Amazon Lili is an enchanting, entertaining story, with wonderful music and acting. It’s primarily the story of two people. One, Lili is a young, attractive French orphan (Leslie Caron) on the verge of growing into womanhood. The other (Mel Ferrer) is a bitter puppeteer. He wanted to be a great dancer, but after being wounded in the war, his dream is shattered. So, he’s outwardly bitter and cynical. But, through his puppets, he shows his kind, tender sides to the audience … and to Lili.

Cast of characters

Lili (Lesli Caron) with the puppet Carrot Top
  • Leslie Caron (An American in Paris) as Lili Daurier. The young orphan, who is desperate for somewhere to go after her father’s death. She’s rescued from a womanizing shopkeeper by Marcus the Magnificent. Then, she tries, and fails, to work in the carnival as a waitress. Despondent, she’s on the verge of suicide, when she’s rescued by … the puppets. Her heartfelt interactions with them stir up a crowd, making them star attractions.
  • Mel Ferrer (Born To Be Bad, Knights of the Round Table) as Paul Berthalet. A very hurt, bitter, young man. His dreams of being a great dancer are dashed by his leg injuring during the war. He puts on a repelling outer shell. As someone once said: Hurt people, hurt people. But, through Lili’s interactions wwith the puppets, he begins to soften inwardly. After all, each of the puppets are based on fragments of his own personality. If only he can manage to tell her how he feels before he chases her away.
  • Jean-Pierre Aumont (Day for Night) as Marc, alias Marcus the Magnificent. A talented magician traveling with the carnival. Not a bad person, but not a good one either. He’s a womanizer, who flirts with every pretty girl. Which annoys his secret wife, Rosalie.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor (Lovely to Look At) – Rosalie, Marc’s assistant. And, secretly, his wife. She’s not a bad person at all. Especially once the audience realizes that she’s trying to keep her philandering husband on a short leash. She does truly love him.
  • Kurt Kasznar (The Great Diamond Robbery) as Jacquot. Paul’s partner and friend, who keeps him grounded. And tells him when he’s being a fool. One of my favorite characters.

The Puppets

In a real sense, the various puppets’ characters are all aspects of Paul. It’s how he expresses himself to Lili, and shows his soft side.

I am Carrot Top: confident, clever, capable of running his life and yours, and everybody else’s; and I’m Golo the Giant: cowardly, stupid, longing to be loved, clumsy and in need of comforting; and I’m Marguerite too: vain, jealous, obsessed with self, looking at my face in the mirror – are my teeth nice? Is my hair growing thin? And I’m Reynaldo: the thief, the opportunist, full of compromise and lies like any other man. I have in me all these things.

  • Carrot Top. A brash, but kind-hearted, red-headed boy.
  • Reynardo. A sly, not very ethical, fox. At the end, he offers to sell himself to creditors in order to get Lili a going away present.
  • Marguerite. A vain ballerina, who is past her prime.
  • Golo. A vain giant, who’s all talk.

And, for a totally different opinion …

Editorial review of Lili courtesy of

The wonderful Leslie Caron stars in this Oscar-winning musical fable with a touch of the bizarre. Caron plays Lili, a recently orphaned waif hopelessly in love with a carnival magician. Mel Ferrer plays Paul, a gruff puppeteer who can express his softer side only through his puppets. Sound weird?

Lesli Caron as Lili

It is. Caron’s performance is lovely. She is, as always, a graceful dancer, but she is also able to pull off the much more difficult task of making Lili pure and innocent without being icky–she talks to Paul’s puppets with complete conviction.

(The puppets, by the way, are incredibly creepy.) Younger viewers will take Lili at face value, but adults may well get sucked into its unintentional dark side: homelessness, suicide, emotional repression, and giant dancing puppets all come into play. Also enjoyable is Zsa Zsa Gabor, who does a great job standing around looking pretty as the magician’s assistant. –Ali Davis


  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo
    Music by Bronislau Kaper
    Lyrics by Helen Deutsch
  • Adoration
    Music by Bronislau Kaper
    Danced by Leslie Caron, Jean Pierre Aumont and Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Lili And The Puppets
    Music by Bronislau Kaper
    Danced by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer

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