Lilies of the Field


1h 34m 1963
Lilies of the Field

Brief Synopsis

An itinerant handyman in the Southwest gets a new outlook on life when he helps a group of German nuns build a chapel.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
Denver, Colorado, opening: 25 Sep 1963
Production Company
Rainbow Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett (Garden City, New York, 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

While touring the southwestern United States, Homer Smith, a black ex-GI, encounters five nuns attempting to farm some barren Arizona land on the edge of the desert. He asks them for a day's work and learns that they are East German refugees who have come to the States to claim the farm which was willed to their Order. Homer repairs their leaky roof and performs other chores, but the Mother Superior persuades him to stay on to help clear the debris from a collapsed barn. Although he is astounded to learn that Mother Maria intends for him to erect a new chapel on the site, Homer so admires her determination that he agrees to take the job if she can provide the materials. He also goes to work for a local contractor, contributing his pay to buy food for the Order and teaches English to the nuns. When the materials run out, however, Homer leaves. He returns a few weeks later, drawn by the urge to finish the chapel, and the townspeople, ashamed of their negligence, finally join in and help Homer. The evening before the bishop is due to arrive for the dedication, Homer leaves as unceremoniously as he had arrived.

Photo Collections

Lilies of the Field - Movie Posters
Lilies of the Field - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Lilies Of The Field (1963) - God Sets A Mighty Poor Table We still don’t know much about Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier), maybe an itinerant handyman in Arizona, except that he wanted to be paid, rather than be asked to stay to dinner with the band of European nuns, led by Lilia Skala as Mother Maria, early in Lilies Of The Field, 1963.
Lilies Of The Field (1963) - "Vee Build A Shapel" Morning after his impromptu overnight stay with the immigrant nuns in Arizona after he did some work for them while passing by, Homer (Sidney Poitier) figures he’s outa there, but Mother Maria (Lilia Skala) has bigger plans, in Ralph Nelson’s Lilies Of The Field, 1963.
Lilies Of The Field (1963) - My Skin Is Black Handyman Homer (Sidney Poitier) starting to enjoy after dinner, when he sees that Mother Maria (Lilia Skala) and the nuns (Lisa Mann, Isa Crino, Francesca Jarvis, Pamela Branch) are learning English from a record player, still on the first evening, in director Ralph Nelson’s Lilies Of The Field, 1963.
Lilies Of The Field (1963) - You Don't Fuss With Your Contractor Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) was leaving but agreed to drive Mother Maria (Lilia Skala) and Gertrude (Lisa Mann) into the nearby Arizona town, leading to an encounter with contractor Ashton (played by director Ralph Nelson), and a un-premeditated commitment, in Lilies Of The Field, 1963.
Lilies Of The Field (1963) - He Has Sent Me A Big Strong Man From the opening, Sidney Poitier is somewhere in Arizona and needs water for his station wagon, and comes upon a group of presumably German nuns at a previously deserted ranch, Lilia Skala their chief, in director Ralph Nelson’s Lilies Of The Field, 1963.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
Denver, Colorado, opening: 25 Sep 1963
Production Company
Rainbow Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett (Garden City, New York, 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Award Wins

Best Actor

1963
Sidney Poitier

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1963

Best Picture

1963

Best Supporting Actress

1963
Lilia Skala

Best Writing, Screenplay

1964

Articles

Lilies of the Field


The film Lilies of the Field, released in 1963, is the type of film the trades used to call "heartwarming"; a wandering ex-G.I. stops by a farm being run by five German nuns and agrees to help them out with various and sundry tasks and chores. At their insistence, he stays on to build a chapel for them, and the nuns are sure that he is a miracle sent from God. Frankly, the real miracle here is that this movie got made at all. Truly a labor of love of director/producer/actor Ralph Nelson, Lilies squeaked by on a budget of $450,000, a shooting schedule of fourteen days, and some serious salary negotiations with the film's star. But what a payoff: it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Moreover, Lilies of the Field achieved motion picture history as Sidney Poitier was awarded the Best Actor Oscar, marking the first time in history an Academy Award was awarded to a black man. Almost forty years later, Poitier remains the sole African-American recipient of the Best Actor Oscar.

A story written by William Barrett, Lilies of the Field was first brought to the attention of Ralph Nelson by his agent, Fred Ingels. Nelson was so inspired by the slim, ninety-two-page book that his intent to bring it to the film screen became unshakeable. When United Artists would only cough up $250,000 for the entire production, Nelson put up his house as collateral in order to ensure the movie could be made. He also struck a deal with Poitier; since he would be unable to pay the actor╒s salary in full, they agreed upon a profit-sharing deal with the box office returns. In terms of tenacity, Nelson had a kindred spirit in his production manager, Joe Popkin. Together they designed a shooting schedule so carefully crafted it would enable them to wrap the entire production in fourteen days.

In addition to directing and producing, Nelson also starred as Mr. Ashton, a contractor who teams up with Poitier's character Homer to build the chapel. In his autobiography, This Life, Poitier writes that although his name appeared in the star's position in the film's credits, "the real star of Lilies of the Fieldwas the man whose creative force, whose integrity and professional commitment, husbanded the entire project into being, Ralph Nelson." Rounding out the notable cast was Lilia Skala, an Austrian actress who played the Mother Superior of the nuns. Skala was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role and earned a Golden Globe for her efforts.

In the 1963 Best Actor Oscar race, Poitier was up against daunting competition; the nominations included Albert Finney for Tom Jones, Paul Newman for Hud, and Rex Harrison for Cleopatra. Convinced Finney would be the winner, Poitier did not prepare an acceptance speech, but rather, focused his efforts on maintaining a graceful loser╒s expression when the cameras invariably turned upon him for his reaction. When presenter Anne Bancroft announced Poitier as the winner, the actor flew up to the stage in hysterical exhilaration, and in a daze, began an impromptu speech he had whimsically thought up just moments before: "It has been a long journey to this moment . . ."

From the film that would never have been made save for an utterly indomitable director came a moment in cinematic history that few thought possible: the winning of the Best Actor Oscar by a black man. Perhaps most significantly, Poiter won for a role as an individual not defined by race in a motion picture devoid of racial judgment;an important lesson finally learned by the Academy.

Producer/Director: Ralph Nelson
Screenplay: James Poe
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Film Editing: John W. McCafferty
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith; Jester Hairston
Principal Cast: Sidney Poitier (Homer Smith), Lilia Skala (Mother Maria), Lisa Mann (Sister Gertrude), Isa Crino (Sister Agnes), Francesca Jarvis (Sister Albertine), Pamela Branch (Sister Elizabeth)
BW-95m. Letterboxed.

by Eleanor Quin

Lilies Of The Field

Lilies of the Field

The film Lilies of the Field, released in 1963, is the type of film the trades used to call "heartwarming"; a wandering ex-G.I. stops by a farm being run by five German nuns and agrees to help them out with various and sundry tasks and chores. At their insistence, he stays on to build a chapel for them, and the nuns are sure that he is a miracle sent from God. Frankly, the real miracle here is that this movie got made at all. Truly a labor of love of director/producer/actor Ralph Nelson, Lilies squeaked by on a budget of $450,000, a shooting schedule of fourteen days, and some serious salary negotiations with the film's star. But what a payoff: it was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Moreover, Lilies of the Field achieved motion picture history as Sidney Poitier was awarded the Best Actor Oscar, marking the first time in history an Academy Award was awarded to a black man. Almost forty years later, Poitier remains the sole African-American recipient of the Best Actor Oscar. A story written by William Barrett, Lilies of the Field was first brought to the attention of Ralph Nelson by his agent, Fred Ingels. Nelson was so inspired by the slim, ninety-two-page book that his intent to bring it to the film screen became unshakeable. When United Artists would only cough up $250,000 for the entire production, Nelson put up his house as collateral in order to ensure the movie could be made. He also struck a deal with Poitier; since he would be unable to pay the actor╒s salary in full, they agreed upon a profit-sharing deal with the box office returns. In terms of tenacity, Nelson had a kindred spirit in his production manager, Joe Popkin. Together they designed a shooting schedule so carefully crafted it would enable them to wrap the entire production in fourteen days. In addition to directing and producing, Nelson also starred as Mr. Ashton, a contractor who teams up with Poitier's character Homer to build the chapel. In his autobiography, This Life, Poitier writes that although his name appeared in the star's position in the film's credits, "the real star of Lilies of the Fieldwas the man whose creative force, whose integrity and professional commitment, husbanded the entire project into being, Ralph Nelson." Rounding out the notable cast was Lilia Skala, an Austrian actress who played the Mother Superior of the nuns. Skala was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role and earned a Golden Globe for her efforts. In the 1963 Best Actor Oscar race, Poitier was up against daunting competition; the nominations included Albert Finney for Tom Jones, Paul Newman for Hud, and Rex Harrison for Cleopatra. Convinced Finney would be the winner, Poitier did not prepare an acceptance speech, but rather, focused his efforts on maintaining a graceful loser╒s expression when the cameras invariably turned upon him for his reaction. When presenter Anne Bancroft announced Poitier as the winner, the actor flew up to the stage in hysterical exhilaration, and in a daze, began an impromptu speech he had whimsically thought up just moments before: "It has been a long journey to this moment . . ." From the film that would never have been made save for an utterly indomitable director came a moment in cinematic history that few thought possible: the winning of the Best Actor Oscar by a black man. Perhaps most significantly, Poiter won for a role as an individual not defined by race in a motion picture devoid of racial judgment;an important lesson finally learned by the Academy. Producer/Director: Ralph Nelson Screenplay: James Poe Cinematography: Ernest Haller Film Editing: John W. McCafferty Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith; Jester Hairston Principal Cast: Sidney Poitier (Homer Smith), Lilia Skala (Mother Maria), Lisa Mann (Sister Gertrude), Isa Crino (Sister Agnes), Francesca Jarvis (Sister Albertine), Pamela Branch (Sister Elizabeth) BW-95m. Letterboxed. by Eleanor Quin

Quotes

Gringo? I don't know if that's a step up or a step down from some other things I've been called.
- Homer Smith
I'm gonna' build me a chapel.
- Homer Smith

Trivia

Shot on location in Arizona in only 14 days.

Director Ralph Nelson had to put up his house as collateral.

Actor Sidney Poitier gave up his usual salary and agreed to do the film for a smaller amount and a percentage of the profits. He won the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts.

Jester Hairston wrote the song "Amen" for the film and dubbed the singing voice for Sidney Poitier.

When singing, the nuns were thought to have been too good. They were told to sing worse and sang horribly. The scene was dubbed over after the voices were flattened in editing.

Notes

Filmed in and around Tucson, Arizona.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1963 National Board of Review.

Winner of the Best Actor Award (Poitier) at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival.

Winner of the Writer's Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay - Comedy for 1963.

Released in United States Fall October 1, 1963

Released in United States June 1963

Shown at the Berlin Film Festival June, 1963.

Released in United States June 1963 (Shown at the Berlin Film Festival June, 1963.)

Released in United States Fall October 1, 1963