Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Is Victor Victoria a sequel to Darling Lili?

Posted in analysis, film by commorancy on June 13, 2019

Having recently watched Darling Lili at Amazon, I’m of the mind that Darling Lili is, in fact, a prequel to Victor Victoria… or more correctly stated, Victor Victoria is a sequel to Darling Lili. Let’s explore.

Blake Edwards

Both Victor Victoria (1982) and Darling Lili (1970) are directed by Blake Edwards. However, it seems that Darling Lili didn’t fare well at the box office. This lack of box office appeal made sense based on the film’s material and tone, particularly in 1970. Let’s explore both films see what we can make of them.

Darling Lili versus Victor Victoria

Darling Lili is set sometime between 1914 and 1918 (World War I). If Lili Smith were 25 in Darling Lili, she would be close to 45 in 1934 (the year in which Victor Victoria is set). The ages mostly match up. Lili shows us that she is fluent in French, even being awarded a medal by the French government. Oddly, Victor Victoria is also set in Paris during 1934. These similarities in locale are uncanny.

Seeing as Lili is both an entertainer, actress and spy for the Germans, she loses her status as a spy by the end of Darling Lili, also losing her American boyfriend in the process. Having lost Bill at the end of the film, she spends her time between 1918 and 1934 living and performing somewhere (probably in France) ultimately landing in Paris destitute in 1934.

After no longer being a spy, taking on a new identity makes sense. She takes on the stage name of Victoria Grant, shedding the Lili Smith name that has all of her former spy baggage attached. This all makes perfect sense for how Victoria Grant ends up in Paris… since we get none of this back history information for Victoria Grant. Victor Victoria opens with Victoria already in Paris. The only thing we know of Victoria’s past is that she hasn’t “sung in 2 weeks” when Toddy mentions her audition at Chez Luis. This implies she’s been having a bit of trouble with steady work.

Lili (now Victoria) is already fluent in the French language, so staying in France makes a lot of sense for Victoria. Because Lili was already an accomplished stage performer and vocalist, it makes perfect sense that Victoria would also be a confident accomplished stage performer and vocalist.

Even the soundtrack score by Mancini in Darling Lili, including “Whistling in the Dark” carries a lot of musical similarities into Victor Victoria, such as “Crazy World”. It’s almost like Mancini picked right up with his musical thought processes during Darling Lili and carried them right into Victor Victoria… or it was intentionally requested by Edwards.

In one scene, Victoria even mentions her hypochondriac of an ex-husband who took her bankroll and ran. This implies Victoria was, at one point, married, but not to Bill.

Recycled

Some have argued that Edwards recycles his ideas across his films. Yes, in some ways he does. The bumbling detective scenario seems to be a hallmark in most, if not all, of Edwards’s films. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you to decide. If the bumbling detective plot in the rain with an umbrella doesn’t get in the way of the main plot, I’m fine with it. It doesn’t get in the way of either Darling Lili and Victor Victoria. They add a little comic relief to the film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well in Darling Lili as it does in Victor Victoria… even though neither of these B plots actually do anything to advance the film’s stories.

Beyond the bumbling detective plot, there’s the basic premise that’s similar in Darling Lili and in Victor Victoria… an entertainer who falls in love with a charismatic tall-dark-and-handsome type. Both are a little bit dangerous (military vs mob). The twists in both films are different, however. Lili is a spy where Victoria cross dresses as a man. Even though the twist is different, the romance plots are mostly similar. Even though Victor Victoria takes the whole bedroom farce portion a whole lot farther than Darling Lili.

For this reason, it’s easy to see Victor Victoria as a sequel. After all, people do tend to fall into their old ways (both Lili and Edwards). Obviously, the war being over, she couldn’t be a spy in the same way. So, she goes for her next best thing… being a performer. Hence, becoming Victoria Grant to shed her old Lili Smith (or Schmidt) persona. It is 20 years later, after all… and her luster as an entertainer may have been waning considering her age. Having Toddy reinvent her as a man with the vocal abilities of a female makes Victor Victoria a charming tale and a logical extension to Darling Lili.

Remake or Sequel?

I’m sure that Blake Edwards was never satisfied with how Darling Lili performed at the box office. It seems he may have even taken it personally. It seems that when Victor Victoria hit his desk, he saw a way to remake Darling Lili and make it much better and a much bigger success. Well, he did that. But, he did so without actually remaking Darling Lili.

In fact, it seems he did it by making a(n unintentional) sequel to Darling Lili. Whether this remake was intentional only Blake Edwards knew. Perhaps Julie Andrews may also know whether Victor Victoria is intended to be a sequel to Darling Lili. Considering how well (or not so well) Darling Lili did, even if it were a sequel, Blake Edwards might not have wanted to make that information publicly known to avoid any possible backlash to Victor Victoria‘s box office receipts. After all, Darling Lili didn’t do well at the box office. No need to drag Victor Victoria down by being labeled as Darling Lili‘s successor.

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