A handyman passing through an Arizona town is convinced
to help a convent of nuns build a chapel in the desert.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Written by James Poe
Starring Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Lisa Mann, Isa Crino,
Francesca Jarvis, Pamela Branch, Stanley Adams, Dan Frazer
Based on the novel by William E. Barrett
Oscar Wins - Best Actor (Sidney Poitier)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Lilia Skala), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
With his performance in this film, the late great Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, forever making his mark on film history. After watching his phenomenal work in The Defiant Ones, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it felt like it was finally time to see the one that landed him Oscar gold: Lilies of the Field. To start, this film was a lot funnier than I expected. It's basically a dramedy, and Poitier is absolutely fantastic in it. It doesn't really have conflict, and the film just sort of ends, but the journey there is more than worth it.
Homer Smith (Poitier) is a handyman who happens to be passing through a small Arizona town. He stops at a convent for some water, and is pressured into helping the nuns with some odd jobs. The Mother Superior, Maria (Skala) is a bit domineering and insistent, and pretty soon Homer is convinced to build them a chapel. Homer becomes obsessed with finishing the job, and the notion of a chapel rallies together the entire town. It's a sweet, endearing story that's simple but surprisingly ahead of its time with how it deals with race and religion.
If nothing else, watch this movie for Sidney Poitier's trailblazing performance as a regular Joe just trying to do the right thing for some nice people. That's all this movie really is. Just a glimpse into a world where people help each other for the right reasons, regardless of what they look like. Sure, it's a pipe dream, but sometimes a pipe dream can be a nice escape.