USA, 1963, 95 min, Digital, Dir. Ralph Nelson, Not Rated, English, Park Circus
“Lilies of the Field is a funny, sentimental, charming, and uplifting film in which intelligence, imagination and energy are proved again to be beyond the price of any super-budget.” –James Powers, The Hollywood Reporter
“Lilies reveals Sidney Poitier as an actor with a sharp sense of humor.” –Variety Magazine
This film is part of Strong Black Leads, a celebration of talented filmmakers and performers who, despite the odds, have made remarkable contributions to cinema through their respective crafts.
Sidney Poitier plays Homer Smith, an aimless ex-GI who takes a temporary handyman job at a Southwestern farm maintained by five German nuns. It is the cherished dream of the Mother Superior (Lilia Skala) to build a chapel. She is convinced that the personable Homer has been sent from Above to help her realize her dream. He protests loudly and rudely, but she will not be dissuaded. How Homer endears himself to the surrounding townsfolk and avoids looming trouble comprises the heart of Lilies of the Field.
As writer Wil Haygood notes in his book Colorization: 100 Years of Black Films in a White World, in this era, a film starring a Black male lead alongside a White female lead would have been blocked by the “moral” guidelines of the Hays Committee, but Lilies of the Field escaped the scrutiny of the Hays Committee because there was no chance for romance since the women were all nuns and the Black character was a laborer.
The film, adapted by James Poe from a novel by William E. Barrett, was later remade for television, and it won Poitier an Academy Award for Best Actor, the first time that award was given to a Black actor.
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