Friday, February 17, 2012

Dolores Hart Returns to Hollywood

Actress Dolores Hart, who left a bright career in Hollywood to answer the call to be a nun, will be attending the Academy Awards on February 26th for the first time in over half a century.

GOD IS THE BIGGER ELVIS (2011), a 37-minute film about Hart's life, has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.

At the outset of Hart's film career, she appeared opposite Elvis Presley in LOVING YOU (1957) and KING CREOLE (1958). She combined a wholesome attractiveness with sharp intelligence as the leading lady of early '60s confections such as WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960) and COME FLY WITH ME (1963). (The latter film likely served as some of the inspiration behind the current TV series PAN AM.) Her other credits included LONELYHEARTS (1958), FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1961), and SAIL A CROOKED SHIP (1961).

As described in a detailed 2011 article in Entertainment Weekly, after concluding publicity in New York for COME FLY WITH ME, a studio car took her to the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, where she has lived ever since.

When Hart chose a life of service as a nun, she not only quit her career, but she also left behind her beloved fiance, Don Robinson, who remained a close lifelong friend and visited her annually. Mr. Robinson passed away in November 2011. Hart and Robinson were both interviewed in an ABC news segment a decade ago, which can be watched at Motion Picture Gems.

A 2010 article in the National Catholic Register discusses Hart's friendships with both Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. How interesting, given that Cooper and Neal once had an affair, that it was Cooper's daughter Maria who guided Neal to help at Hart's convent at a time when Neal was struggling.

Recent articles about Mother Dolores and the documentary have appeared in the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.

Monday Update: Susan King has an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times. Mother Dolores has been a voting member of the Academy since 1990 due to the intervention of Karl Malden.

Asked about modern movies, Mother Dolores says "We receive visitors and meet visitors who need help. There isn't really too much in movies that we haven't seen on our doorstep. Hollywood reflects the problems in the society."


Blogger Rob said...

Cool news, I've always respected and admired the choices she made. Intelligent, thoughtful woman!

10:05 PM  
Blogger Audrey said...

That's really neat. Her story is one-of-a-kind, and it's always interested me.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Crocheted Lace said...

hmmm... you can take the girl out of Hollywood but you can't take Hollywood out of the girl. At least we know she will be tastefully dressed. But I would think a nun who supposedly eschews the limelight would not want to attend an event which has become so shallow and crass. Yeah, I know she's still a voting member, but I think she would have discarded all that too when she embraced the life of a religious.
I've never seen any of her films, but I admire her a lot. This choice puzzles me.

11:27 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

I am so moved by the story of Maria Cooper asking Mother Dolores to care for Patricia Neal. When Maria was a teenager and her father left her and her mother to live with Neal for several years, Maria famously spat at Neal in public. And yet years later Maria befriended Patricia Neal and helped her in a time of need. I've read that Maria is deeply religious and this is a powerful story of faith and forgiveness. Jane

6:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad you all enjoyed this post.

Jane, thank you for adding additional background to the story of Maria Cooper. It is indeed extremely touching.

Best wishes,

11:13 PM  

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