Lilies of the Field (1963 film)
|Lilies of the Field|
original film poster
|Budget||$240,000 or $247,000|
|Box office||$3 million (rentals) or $7 million|
Lilies of the Field is a 1963 film adapted by
Homer Smith (
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
When Sunday comes, Mother Maria informs Smith that he will be driving the sisters to Mass in his station wagon. (The nuns have no vehicle and thus ordinarily would walk the long distance to church.) Smith is invited to attend the
Though he has come to realize how unlikely it is that he will be paid, and partly out of respect for all the women have overcome, Smith stays longer and finds himself driven to work on at least clearing the construction site for the chapel. He rationalizes that it would be too hard for the sisters to move the heavy beams. After losing another duel of Bible quotes with Mother Maria, Smith acknowledges that he has always wanted to be an
To earn money to buy some "real food" to supplement the spartan diet the nuns are able to provide him, Smith gets a part-time job with the nearby construction contractor, Ashton (director
To pass the evenings, Smith (whom the nuns call "Schmidt") helps the sisters improve their rudimentary English (only Mother Maria speaks the language well enough to converse with him) and joins them in singing. They share their different musical traditions with one another: their
Smith, determined that the building will be constructed to the highest standards, insists that the work be done by him and only him. Meanwhile, the nuns write letters to various philanthropic organizations and charities asking for money for supplies, but all their requests are denied. As word spreads about the endeavor, locals begin to show up to contribute materials and to help in construction, but Smith rebuffs all offers of assistance in the labor. As he gains a larger and larger audience for his efforts, the locals, impressed with his determination, but no less dogged than he, will content themselves no longer with just watching. They find ways to lend a hand that Smith cannot easily turn down – the lifting of a bucket or brick, for example. Once the process is in motion, they end up doing as they intended, assisting in every aspect of the construction, as well as contributing materials. This greatly accelerates the progress, much to the delight of everyone but Smith.
Even Ashton, who has long ignored Mother Maria's pleas, finds an excuse to deliver some more materials. Almost overnight, Smith finds that he's become a building foreman and contractor. Enduring the hassles of coordinating the work of so many, the constant disputes with Mother Maria, and the trial of getting enough materials for the building, Smith brings the chapel to completion, placing the cross on the spire himself and signing his work where only he and God will know.
It is the evening before the Sunday when the chapel is to be dedicated. All the work has been done and Smith is exhausted. Now that there is nothing more to keep Smith among them, Mother Maria, too proud to ask him outright to stay, insists that he attend the opening Mass next day to receive proper recognition from the congregation. She speaks enthusiastically of all that "Schmidt" still can do to aid the town, such as building a school. Making no reply to any of this, Smith tricks Mother Maria, as part of the night's English lesson, into saying "thank you" to him. Until then, she stubbornly had thanked only God for the work, assistance, and gifts that Smith had provided to the nuns. It is a touching moment between two strong personalities.
Later that evening, as he leads the nuns in singing "Amen" once again, Smith slips out the door and, still singing the lead, the nuns' voices chiming softly behind him, he takes one last look at the chapel he built. Mother Maria hears him start up his station wagon, but remains stolidly in her seat, singing along with the rest of the sisters, as Smith drives quietly off into the night.