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Christmas Lilies of the Field ~ (1979) ~ Made-for-TV ~ Billy Dee Williams, Maria Schell, Bob Hastings, Jean Jenkins, Rachel Ward



Christmas Lilies of the Field ~ (1979) ~ Made-for-TV ~ Billy Dee Williams, Maria Schell, Bob Hastings, Jean Jenkins, Rachel Ward  



  • Billy Dee Williams ~ (Homer Smith)
  • Maria Schell ~ (Mother Maria)
  • Fay Hauser ~ (Janet Owens)
  • Lisa Mann ~ (Sister Gertrude)
  • Hanna Hertelendy ~ (Sister Albertine)
  • Judith Piquet ~ (Sister Agnes)
  • Donna Johnston ~ (Sister Elizabeth)
  • Bob Hastings ~ (Harold Pruitt)
  • Jean Jenkins ~ (Mrs. Constance Everett)
  • Fred Hart ~ (Father Brian Connor)
  • Sam Di Bello ~ (Dr. Mike Robles)
  • Julie Delgado ~ (Felicia)
  • Rachel Ward ~ (Jenny)

Christmas Lilies of the Field is a 1979 made-for-TV sequel to the classic 1963 film Lilies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier

In the Christmas TV movie sequel, Billy Dee Williams takes over the role of Homer Smith. 

The story begins with Smith returning to the chapel in the Arizona desert that he built for the German-speaking nuns in the first film. 


The nuns now care for a group of eight orphans and a pregnant teenager. Mother Maria ( Maria Schell ) is able to convince Homer to help them build what the nuns call a kindergarten--a school--and a dormitory for the children. 


However, there are more challenges. Mother Maria’s financial benefactor, a wealthy society woman named Mrs. Constance Everett ( Jean Jenkins ) is morally against the nuns caring for Felicia ( Julie Delgado ) a pregnant teenager. And Janet Owens ( Fay Hauser ) a social worker is convinced the children need to be separated and placed in foster homes and orphanages.


Homer finds himself not only taking on the troubles of the nuns but having to recruit the labor and fund the construction job as well. On top of it all, he’s been given the deadline of Christmas to complete it.


This story has a happy ending, as you may well guess. The finale includes a cheerful scene with the children dressed for their Christmas Nativity pageant singing “ Children Go Where I Send Thee ." Not only does the pregnant teen Felicia deliver her healthy baby on Christmas Eve but Homer is able to surprise Mother Maria with bells for her chapel.


Interestingly, this TV movie sequel is directed by Ralph Nelson , the same man who directed the original theatrical release. The sequel also has two additional scenes which include the 1963 film's musical theme, the song " Amen ." 


This gospel song is one of the highlights of the original film and so it's wonderful to see it repeated here as well. " Amen " was arranged for the 1963 film by songwriter/composer and actor Jester Hairston. Though you may not recognize his name, TV viewers may recognize Hairston for his role as the elderly Rolly Forbes in the hit 1980s sitcom Amen which also starred Sherman Hemsley



Based on the initial 1976 success of the ABC Network variety series "The Donny and Marie Show", real estate developer, George Osmond, patriarch of the Osmond family enterprises, constructed a multi-million dollar Orem "Hollywood style" TV studio in Orem, adjacent to the foothills of Provo, Utah in 1977. The variety series "The Donny and Marie Show", originally taped weekly at the Hollywood KTLA TV (formerly Warner Brothers 1920-30's) Studios, on Sunset Boulevard. With the show's popularity and successful ratings, George Osmond decided to move "The Donny and Marie Show" to the Orem-Provo area in 1976, unbeknown that the network would cancel their show, marking its final season in the Spring of 1979. The move (along with changes to the show's format) proved unsuccessful and the series was canceled. "Cal" Calvin McWhorter, KTLA TV Studio's construction coordinator, accepted the Osmond Family's job offer as their Orem Studio's production facility manager. Cal's brother Ed McWhorter, working with his brother Cal in the KTLA Studio's construction shop, and as a KTLA #33 (IATSE) union stage technician, moved with the Osmond's series to Utah as a construction coordinator. The Osmond's Orem studio facility was unique as a first in the Salt Lake-Provo area providing a "Hollywood" production facility with rehearsal rooms, offices, two fully equipped television-tape studio/stages, a complete lighting package, also including construction, paint, scenic, graphics, drapery, costume and wardrobe departments, engineering with video show-tape editing personnel. The facility offered a major employment opportunity to the Salt Lake and Provo communities. Popular as a tourist sight, the family's open door policy allowed visitors entrance to the sight, where a "wall of fame" had been constructed in the administrative exterior studio forecourt. Each week, the show's celebrity guests implanted their hand print, foot print and signature on a rectangular concrete slab, with the concrete slab hung on the wall of fame. Osmond Productions endeavored to develop film projects for the entertainment industry utilizing their facility. Commercial accounts from Ohio video taped their TV promotions and ads at the studio. The Osmond's developed other special entertainment projects, which aired on various network outlets. The Osmond Family sold the studio when it was no longer feasible to continue operating it. Jimmy Osmond later purchased the sight back, refurbishing the buildings, turning the property into Osmond Real Estate company until 1993, when the real estate company moved. 


The original 1963 black and white feature film's title " Lilies of the Field " came from Mathew 6:27-33, and its parallel scripture from Luke 12:27-30, a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. The 1963 film was directed by Ralph Nelson, with Sidney Portier (Homer Schmidt) and Lilia Skala (Mother Maria). The film tells the story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns who believe he has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel, adapted from the 1962 novel by William Edmund Barrett. The 1963 feature was filmed on Linda Ronstadt's father's small ranch, located on the Northern edge (near Sabino Canyon and Cloud Road) of Tucson, Arizona. There was no art director, but the property master, Robert Eaton, actually supervised the construction of the chapel, which was built adjacent to existing ranch buildings. The interiors of the 1963 film's Mother Maria's quarters were filmed inside the ranch building. The chapel construction had to be built at night, in order to keep up with the fifteen day filming schedule. Property master Robert Eaton rented a prop pump organ, furniture, other set dressing and hand props from the Hollywood Cinema Mercantile Property House, located on Santa Monica Boulevard near the Paramount film 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 1963 film's scenes in Mother Maria's interior main room, the prop pump 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, pump organ and hanging picture belong. The furniture-props are 'waltzed', choreographed, to the actors' motivation, camera positions, or the actor's movement in each scene. Early summer of 1979, Ralph Nelson was the principle motivation in developing the "Christmas Lilies of the Field" property as a NBC movie of the week. The sequel, Homer Schmidt returns to the Arizona desert where he had built the chapel for the nuns. This time Mother Maria convinces Homer into building a kindergarten as well as an orphanage. The NBC Television Movie of the Week special "Christmas Lilies of the Field" featured Billy Dee Williams as Homer Schmidt and Maria Schell as Mother Maria. The NBC December feature special was produced as a television series pilot mid-season series replacement for Spring 1980. "Lilies of the Field' was to be based at the Osmond Family Orem-Provo studio facility. The MOW film's location and interior sets for the Chapel and Nun's quarters were built on Utah State owned/governed land 75 miles North-West, from the Osmond's Orem studio. The production planned to use this distant location for the series, filming additional locations in the Salt Lake area, and utilizing the Orem studio for offices and as a base for the television series. The dismal ratings when the MOW (December 29, 1979) aired spiked any future prospects for the project's development, nor was ABC or CBS Networks moved to take on the proposed 'shopped' series. Cal McWhorter, the studio's facility manager and construction manager-coordinator, became concerned with the initial Chapel and Mother Maria's location sets being constructed on the foothills at the leased Utah State owned property. Having worked with Hub Braden at Hollywood's KTLA Television studio, Cal brought Braden to Utah to evaluate the original plans, provide direction and design elements to what had already been initially started. Cal realized the hired local talent could not cope with the scope of the production's demands. Braden, in turn, brought the set decorator Don Remacle onto the production crew, knowing that Remacle had formerly studied to be a Catholic Priest. The major problems with the set exteriors and interiors was the lack of doors and windows, neglected in the initial design phase plan. With walls already built, or in the process of construction, the set foot print and plan were expanded, revised, and reconstructed to "wild" away for camera positions. The chapel's exterior sight required roads, gardens, and out-buildings to motivate scenes and action as scripted. The director Ralph Nelson had not been much help to the local young man who had initially planned the location set. Remacle, with his Southern California lead man, spent a week in Mexico purchasing religious relics and altar dressings for the chapel. During filming, Remacle served as consultant in the liturgy of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the altar where the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. Remacle advised Ralph Nelson and Maria Schell, portraying Mother Maria, and the Sister-nuns in altar ceremonial sacraments. Don Remacle advised costume designer Dyke Davis on all the garments worn and accessories used by the Sisters and Mother Maria. 



CHRISTMAS LILIES OF THE FIELD opens with a recreation of the final scenes of the original LILIES OF THE FIELD , beginning where Homer signs his name at the top of the steeple and ending with his driving away into the night. 



The Set Decorator, Don Remacle, had studied for the Catholic Priesthood, changing his career objectives after attending the Pasadena Playhouse Drama School. With his knowledge of the Church, all Altar and ceremonial procedures, he advised Ralph Nelson and Maria Schell on everything related with the Chapel scenes, including all the set dressing related actions or scene motivations. Remacle also advised the costume designer, Dyke Davis, on all the Nun's wardrobe and accessories. Don Remacle quit his Fairfax- Beverly Blvd CBS TV staff set decorator position to work on this Provo, Utah location film assignment. Upon completion of the NBC TV MOW, Remacle returned to Los Angeles, immediately going to work on a film television series at Universal-MCA Television; then, onto an illustrious film set decorating career working with director George Cukor's 1981 film "Rich and Famous".



The studio was not satisfied with the singing voices of the kids hired to play the orphans. The studio ended up going to Orem Junior High School, which was known at the time to have a very good musical theater program, and hiring six local kids to sing the songs in the film. Their voices were dubbed in for the orphans in the songs but they were never credited.



Year(s): 12.16.79 

Format: DVD 

Run time: 98m 

Country: USA 

Language: English 

B&W / Color: Color

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