Made on a modest budget and filmed entirely on location in Arizona, Lilies reveals Sidney Poitier as an actor with a sharp sense of humor. He is a journeyman laborer, touring the countryside in his station wagon, working when the fancy moves him, and traveling on when he feels the need for a change. That is his philosophy until he stops one day at a lonely farm to refill his radiator, but he meets his match in the five women who run the place.
They are all members of a holy order from East Germany, and are working arid land that has been bequeathed them. As the Mother Superior sets eyes on Poitier she is convinced that God has answered her prayers and sent a strong healthy man, to fix the roof of their farmhouse.
Many factors combine in the overall success of the film, notably the restrained direction by Ralph Nelson, a thoroughly competent screenplay by James Poe [from a novel by William E. Barrett], and, of course, Poitier’s own standout performance. There are a number of diverting scenes that remain in the memory, such as Poitier giving the Sisters an English lesson, with gestures to demonstrate the meaning of the phrases, and later leading them in the singing of ‘Aymen’.
1963: Best Actor (Sidney Poitier).
Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actress (Lilia Skala), Adapted Screenplay, B&W Cinematography