Today’s feature is Lilies of the Field.
Wiki: Lilies of the Field is a 1963 film adapted by James Poe from the 1962 novel with the same name by William Edmund Barrett, and stars Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Stanley Adams, and Dan Frazer. It was produced and directed by Ralph Nelson. The title comes from Matthew 6:27-33 a portion of the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament and its parallel scripture from Luke 12:27-30. It also features an early film score by prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith.
It tells the story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns, who believe he has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel.
Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) is an itinerant handyman/jack-of-all-trades who stops at a farm in the Arizona desert to obtain some water for his car. There he sees several women working on a fence, very ineptly. The women, who speak very little English, introduce themselves as German, Austrian and Hungarian nuns. The mother superior, the leader of the nuns, persuades him to do a small roofing repair. He stays overnight, assuming that he will be paid in the morning. Next day, Smith tries to persuade the mother superior to pay him by quoting Luke 10:7, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” Mother Maria Marthe (Lilia Skala, called “Mother Maria”), responds by asking him to read another Bible verse from the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Mother Maria likes things done her way. The nuns have essentially no money and subsist by living off the land, on what vegetables the arid climate provides, and some milk and eggs. Even after being stonewalled when asking for payment, and after being persuaded to stay for a meal, and against his better judgment, Smith agrees to stay another day to help them with other small jobs, always with the faint hope that Mother Maria will pay him for his work.
As Smith’s skills and strengths become apparent to the nuns, they come to believe that he has been sent by God to fulfill their dream of building a chapel for the townsfolk—who are Mexican and impoverished—as the nearest church is miles away.