Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Old Movie Review - Lilies of the Field

Well, I'm back! And as I've begun so many other posts when I am away from this space longer than expected, life has just been busy and finding time to share with you here has been hard to find! But I'm not complaining!  My days are filled spending time with my husband and my daughter, engaged in the tasks of keeping a home, and recently I've also been doing a lot of reading and watching old movies. So truth be told, I suppose I could have shown up here sooner, but I've just been enjoying myself so much I didn't. Blogging is wonderful and I love it, but real life beats it hands down. You understand. Kate is going on twenty and moving towards moving out and getting her own place, and after being separated for over two years, Bill and I are enjoying our time together. Real life and real people trump the internet every day and twice on Sunday. But enough with that and on to the reason for this post!

As I mentioned I've been watching a lot of movies lately, old movies in particular, because films from the 40's-60's are my personal favorites. That's not to say I don't watch modern day movies, as well, because I do. I LOVE movies and I love sharing them with others, especially older movies that a lot of people may not have seen or are familiar with. Recently I've been on a bit of a Sidney Poitier kick,  having recently watched To Sir, With Love and I picked up Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? from the library just yesterday.

But it was Lilies of the Field that started it all, when I came across a copy of it at Goodwill and decided to add it to our collection. Bill and I have started a weekly tradition of watching at least one old movie a week, typically on Monday's and we call it "Old Movie Monday". This is primarily because I LOVE old movies, and while he is not a fan, he doesn't mind giving them a try here and again and this was the first movie we watched.

Lilies of the Field is the story of Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier), a jack-of-all-trades, who comes across a group of German, Austrian and Hungarian nuns who are struggling to eek out a meager living in the Arizona desert, when he stops to get water for his car.  Believing he is "sent by God", Mother Maria convinces Homer to help them with a few odd jobs.  Homer reluctantly agrees, and states that he expects to be paid and originally plans to leave the next morning.  But through a series of conversations, he ends up staying longer, helping them with a few more jobs, which eventually results to him agreeing to build a chapel for the community.

I absolutely loved this movie, especially the relationship between Homer and Mother Maria.  She is quite a bossy woman and used to getting her own way, and as hard as Homer tries, he has a difficult time turning her down.  The other sisters are all sweet, and I love that part of Homer's motivation in staying is to relieve the poverty they are content to live in, if only for awhile.  Each night after dinner he gives them lessons in English, and he even takes a part time job so that he can buy them some food and treats them with lollipops.

One of my favorite scenes is the "battle of the Bible" which takes place between Homer and Mother Maria when he decides to resort to scripture to convince her that he needs to be paid.  Mother Maria is armed and ready with her own knowledge of the scriptures, however, and rebuttals each of Homer's attempts with a verse that states that he should do the work for the Lord and that he will be blessed.  Though the movie doesn't really clarify, I don't think he ever did receive a penny for the all the work he did, but it is obvious that the nuns come to mean a lot to him and he to them.  They are all blessed with the gift of friendship, and because of Homer, when he finally does leave, they are in much better circumstances than he found them.

Another thing that I loved was the way it brought the community together.  When Homer does finally agree to build the chapel, he originally does so because he had always dreamed of being an architect but could not afford to go to school. His only request is the be left alone to do it himself.  But then he meets other members of the community when he drives the sisters to mass each Sunday. Soon they all become interested and start showing up. They donate bricks and other supplies to help build the chapel, but Homer insists that they cannot help, even placing signs around that say "Do Not Touch" "Keep Out", etc.  For awhile they even take over the project, and Homer then quits and refuses to help.  But when things start becoming a mess and Mother Maria is concerned they are going to ruin everything, Homer takes charge again and they all learn to work together to finish the chapel.

It's a truly lovely story that emphasizes what we can accomplish when we are willing to lay down our pride and work together, and of faith.  Mother Maria believe for many years that God would send someone to help and that He would provide the supplies to build the chapel.  Everyone who became involved in the project of left changed, and Mother Maria's obvious sadness when Homer leaves reveals that in spite of her tough, bossy exterior, lies a soft heart.

I would recommend that everyone give this movie a try.  Aside from the song "Amen" being sun in its entirety at least twice and maybe three times, which is the only negative thing I can think of, I though it was very heartwarming.  I don't even dislike the song, it was just the number of times it was sung that was a bit much for me. Sidney Portier won best actor for his performance, and while by today's standards I wouldn't say it was exceptional, it was very good.  Now that I'm on my third movie in which he had a starring role, I'm wondering why I never watched his movies before?  I found a book at the library that I am going to request after I've knocked a couple of others off my list, an autobiography, The Measure of A Man: A Spiritual Biography, which looks interesting.  I'm looking forward to reading it and learning more about him.

I'll be posting reviews of To Sir, With Love and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? over the next few weeks.  And until then, if you have any favorite movies, starring Sidney Portier, or not, and especially from the 50's and 60's that you've always enjoyed, please leave your suggestions in the comments!  I'm always on the lookout for new titles and I'd love to hear your favorites.  Have you seen Lilies of the Field, and if so, what did you think?  Let me know!

Until then,

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