Saturday, November 16, 2013
LILIES OF THE FIELD (1963)
Directed By: Ralph Nelson
Written By: James Poe
Based On The Novel By: William E. Barrett
Cinematography By: Ernest Haller
Music By: Jerry Goldsmith
Editor: John W. McCafferty
Cast: Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Lisa Mann, Isa Crino, Stanley Adams, Dan Frazer,
Homer Smith, an unemployed construction worker, heading out west stops at a remote farm in the desert to get water when his car overheats. The farm is being worked by a group of East European Catholic nuns, headed by the strict Mother Maria, who believes that Homer has been sent by God to build a much needed church in the desert...
This is the type of film that was a big spectacle to put on the big screen back in the sixties that now would have been made specifically for the family channel.
The film is noteworthy for Sidney Poitier winning the Best Actor Oscar. The first African American to do so , but to tell you the truth the film isn't that noteworthy. It's not a must see. It lives and does based on the charisma of Sidney Poitier's character. A drifter whose history we never learn or even get a glimpse of his background. And even though he questions the beliefs of the nun characters he almost is the prototype of the magical/mystical negro in films. Who goes out of his way to help white characters in films through their dilemma, while never seeming to have problems themselves and even though they are black and in segregated times (usually) no one seems to notice the race of the character or if they do they Barely seem to notice. As the negro character always offers a smile and a good piece of advice or a witty line. Morgan freeman seems to own the market on these types of roles. Though Poitier's character learns things himself from the nuns.
It's interesting that Poitier was the second choice for the role. Harry Belafonte was the first. Even though Sidney was the bigger star at the time and took a pay cut to play the role. At the time they were really the only crossover African American movie stars. And we think it's tough today to be a black actor. At least now we have quite a few, but still a limited number who can open a movie on name recognition. Belafonte handsome I could see more as the drifter as Poitier seemed more poised in his acting. Though both could pull off the part Poitier hit it out of the ballpark
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.
The film was Shot on location in Arizona in only 14 days. Director Ralph Nelson even had to put up his house as collateral. Talk about a passion project.
Since the story's action was tied to the chapel's construction, crew had to work through the night to keep up with it "progress" in the film. The actual building was real and could have stood for decades, but because it was built on rented property, it had to be demolished immediately after the filming was completed.
As the film goes on the nuns and him learn to have a mutual respect for one another and learn trust. It's a charming movie and by the end puts a smile on your face and puts your faith in humanity.
It Is a proud achievement in African American cinema even though Sidney Poitier is the only African American involved in the film.
Though Poitier's character learns things himself from the nuns. This film is worth a look , not close to classic in my mind, but it does take you back to a simpler times. And a nice clean film good for the whole family.
It manages to put a smile on your face and have faith in many things most of all humanity and the power and strength of the human spirit. I know kind of common, but it’s true. That is becoming a rarity these days in cinema As it seems more seek to challenge, be cool or cynical and depressing.
By no uncertain terms is this mesmerizing film-making, but the way it affects you by not seeming to do much at all is the power of the film.