If you need to watch a Feel-Good Film, watch the 1963 Oscar Movie nomination Lilies of the Field. Amen!
Sidney Poitier is perfect in Lilies of the Field, and for his effort, he became the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Denzel Washington was the second African-American to win the same award, but that was not for another 38 years.
The competition for the Oscar in 1963 was steep. In that same year, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, and Tom Jones were also nominated. Tom Jones won the award, and if my memory serves me right about Tom Jones, Lilies would have been my choice. It is certainly a movie that brings me more joy.
In 1963, I was 13-years-old. Because of Lilies of the Field, the song Amen became famous, and it is still one of my favorites.
Lilies of the Field is a film about faith. The title suggests the followiong scripture:
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
23 For the life is more than the food, and the body than the raiment.
24 Consider the ravens, that they sow not, neither reap; which have no store-chamber nor barn; and God feedeth them: of how much more value are ye than the birds!
25 And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit unto the measure of his life?
26 If then ye are not able to do even that which is least, why are ye anxious concerning the rest?
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 But if God doth so clothe the grass in the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Luke 12: 22 – 28
The movie is set in an almost barren field, and in my opinion that almost Wasteland-like field is a symbol. A group of German nuns are essentially stranded on the field, struggling to chisel sustenance from it. We see them hoeing the hard and rocky ground. They barely have enough food to eat, but they have dared to want more than sustenance. Even though bare survival seems a tall order, they also want to build a chapel. When Fate arranges a chance meeting between the nuns and Poitier, the sisters believe that God has answered almost all of their prayers. God has brought them a strong man to do their work.
Initially, Poitier refuses to do the job, but eventually he agrees; however, there are no materials for the project. Mother Superior believes that prayer will provide the materials. When it seems that prayer has not worked, Poitier is ready to bale. The following dialog takes place:
Poitier: Where are the bricks?Mother Superior: They will come. Maybe not tonight, but there isother things, you could be busy. Raking and planting trees. Poitier: We had this contract. You failed to keep your part. Mother Superior: I failed because I put my faith in peopleinstead of in God!
Ultimately, Mother Superior’s faith is rewarded and Poitier grows. This movie has no surprises. Early, you know how the movie will end, but because it is delightful, you continue to watch. You continue to be delighted.
As I said before, Lilies of the Field is a feel-good movie, and in my opinion, there are far too many of those.
©Jacki Kellum February 23, 2016