The story is so old as to be moss-covered. When Lunt and Fontaine used this story in The Guardsman in 1931, it was already derided as being an old chestnut. The makers of Lily in Love have little to add to the basic plot. The story concerns a ham actor married to a writer. He desperately wants the lead in her new screenplay, and she is certain that he's wrong for the part, in this case the part calling for a romantic European. The husband disguises himself with makeup and an accent, auditions for the part, gets it, and then, in a fit of perversity, tries to seduce his wife under the cover of his new identity, presumably to determine her fidelity. Lily in Love barely updates the plot.
The only attractions of Lily in Love are the performances by the two stars, Christopher Plummer as the egocentric actor and Maggie Smith as his writer wife. Both are excellent, Plummer delighting in the chance to play a double role, Smith coyly toying with both Plummer and the audience, never making it completely clear whether or not she is on to her husband's masquerade. Adolph Green is good as the agent they share, the script has some good lines, and that's about it. The rest of the performers barely have anything to do, the plot is predictable, the Hungarian locations are poorly used, the director doesn't have any interesting angles to work from, and the details of the production are resolutely average. To make Lily in Love stand out, a very light touch would be required, such as that of Lubitsch. Karol Makk doesn't have such lightness of touch or the cleverness which would allow him to make the film seem fresh. He and screenwriter Frank Cucci have chosen not to play Lily in Love as complete farce, which would be another possibility.
Lily in Love also suffers from problems of basic plausibility. Plummer doesn't look sufficiently different in his disguise makeup. The makeup is also supposed to stand up under conditions which seem highly unlikely, such as having film makeup applied on top of it. The supposedly brilliant script of the film within a film sounds like a crashing bore.
Lily in Love is a good film to take your grandmother to. There will be little to offend much of anyone in the film. It's not really dull, but neither does it have very much to offer. The only amazing thing about it is that it was made at all. Fans of the stars might want to check it out, it is perfectly suitable for the lower half of a double feature, and might be worth watching on cable. Lily in Love does not, however, merit the expense and exertion to be seen in a theater for its own sake.
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