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... Written by
Christopher J. Thompson <email@example.com>
The film was shot on Linda Ronstadt's father's small ranch. There was no art director, but the Property Master, Robert Eaton, actually supervised the construction of the chapel, adjacent to existing ranch buildings. The interiors of the Nun's abode were filmed in these buildings. Robert Eaton rented a prop organ, furniture, and other set dressing and hand props from the Hollywood Cinema Mercantile Property House, located on Santa Monica Blvd near Paramount Studios. Eaton drove a rental truck carrying all the props to Arizona for the shoot, returning all the props after the film's completion. Watching the main Nun's interior abode, the prop organ stands against one wall, with a painting hanging on an adjacent wall. There is absolutely no continuity in where the prop table and chairs, related organ and hanging picture belong. The props are choreographed to the actors' motivation or movement in each scene. In the summer of 1979, Ralph Nelson was the principle motivation in directing a NBC TV MOW "Christmas Lillies of the Field" featuring Billy De Williams (Homer Smith) and Maria Schell (Mother Maria). The film was planned as a pilot for a mid-season 1979-1980 series replacement which was to be based at the Provo, Utah, Osmond Family Television Studio Production facility. The Chapel and Nun's quarters were built on State owned land 75 miles from the studio. The production planned to use this location for the series, filming additional locations in the Salt Lake area. Ralph Nelson would produce and direct the TV series "Lillies of the Field". The December 29th, 1979, MOW's slim viewer ratings resulted in cancellation of any further series development. See more »
After Homer gets a drink of water from Mother, as he pulls away in the car, the camera's shadow is visible on the car. Also a large white rectangular reflector is reflected briefly in the window. See more »
While driving through Arizona, Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier) stops at a chapel run by a group of East German nuns. He intends to stay only briefly, but ends up building most of the chapel for them. Naturally, both sides are a bit unfamiliar with the other side: Homer has to explain to the nuns his life as a black man in America, and the nuns have to explain to Homer their mission in life.
As always, Sidney Poitier does a splendid job as a man forcing people to look into their own prejudices. In fact, his character is someone still looking for his path in life. Maybe some people might say that Poitier was essentially playing the same character that he always played, but we have to remember that this was a total break from the Stepin Fetchit mold that had dominated the image of black people for so long, so movies like "Lilies of the Field" were pretty important. Poitier's Oscar win for this movie was well-deserved.
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