Saturday, February 25, 2012

Former Actress Dolores Hart Will Walk Red Carpet in Nun's Habit

Dolores Hart, 1958, United Artist

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, ruled that actor Sacha Baron Cohen could not walk the red carpet on Oscar night wearing his costume from The Dictator. However, a U.S. Marine, a nun, and a high school coach, will.

Mother Dolores Hart, 73, as she is now known, will be wearing her nun's habit on the red carpet Sunday night, because for one night she will, once again, be a movie star. She is the subject of the Oscar-nominated short documentary, God Is the Bigger Elvis, directed by Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson.

Mother Dolores, although now the Prioress of a nunnery in a Benedictine Monastery where she is called Reverend Mother, attended the Academy Awards three times before she became a nun. She has remained a voting member of the Academy.

Besides, Mother Dolores, the coach Bill Courtney is a real-life white coach of an all-black, inner-city high-school football team featured in the documentary Undefeated. The marine is Sgt. Nathan Harris, injured in Afghanistan, and whose emotional struggle to transition back to life in North Carolina is depicted in the documentary Hell and Back Again.

Actress Dolores Hart was born Dolores Hicks, October 20, 1938, in Chicago, and is Irish and Italian. Her father, Irishman Bert Hicks, had a minor role in the movie Forever Amber (1947). Hart's first appearance in a move was an uncredited role playing a child in Forever Amber when she was nine. She also happened to be the niece of the very popular singer/movie actor, Mario Lanza. Later, Hick's father left the family, and Hart acquired the last name of Hart when she received her first credited role. 

I loved Lanza's voice, and especially loved the movie of The Student Prince, adapted from the operetta written by Sigmund Romberg (music) and Dorothy Donnelly (book and lyrics). The summer I taught in Germany, I insisted on taking the students to Heidelberg, the setting for the operetta and the movie.

Forever Amber, stars Cornel Wilde and Linda Darnell. The cast also includes George Sanders, Richard Haydn and Jessica Tandy. It, too, is one of my all-time favorite movies, despite the fact that the Catholic Legion of Decency condemned the movie, as they had the novel by Kathleen Winsor, for its "glamorization of immorality and licentiousness."  The Legion demanded, and got, many changes in the movie.

During her acting career, Hart appeared in 10 films including Wild is the Wind with Anthony Quinn (1957). She co-starred in two films with Elvis Presley, Loving You (1957) and King Creole (1958). In Loving You, she was the first actress Elvis kissed onscreen, and she became famous as the girl whom Elvis kissed.

She went on to appear with George Hamilton in Where the Boys Are, (1960) and Stuart Whitman in Michael Curtiz's  Francis of Assisi (1961).  She is quoted as saying her favorite movie is Lisa (1962), in which she played a Jewish refugee after World War II.

She last starred on the big screen with Hugh O'Brian in 1963's Come Fly With Me, a comedy about flight attendants looking for love. One of the Taglines: "Three Pretty Airline Stewardesses on a spree in the Fun Capitols of the World."

Almost 50 years later, we now have the TV series, Pan Am, amazingly similar. Tagline for Pan Am: "Period drama about the pilots and flight attendants who once made Pan Am the most glamorous way to fly." Don't be fooled by this bland tagline, folks. There's a whole lot of hanky-panky
going on in them thar skies.

Hart also starred in some well-known television series of the 1950s and 60s, including: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90, Matinee Theatre, and the Dupont Show with June Allyson. Her last appearance on TV was in the 1963 episode of The Virginian, "The Mountain and the Sun."

In 1959, while starring on Broadway in the comedy The Pleasure of His Company, she began to suffer from fatigue. A friend suggested she visit the convent at the Benedictine Regina Laudis Monastery, in Bethlehem, Connecticut, for some rest and contemplation. She would return to the convent in 1963, not as a visitor but as a novitiate (nun in training).      

It was during that first visit that the Mother Dolores felt a tug at her heart, and began to feel that maybe she should devote her life to God. But Hart was only 21, and the Reverend Mother of the convent believed Hart was too young to give up her career in Hollywood.

Will Mother Dolores Hart, who now has peripheral neuropathy, a painful neurological disorder that makes walking difficult at times, go to the stage if God is Greater than Elvis wins the Oscar? She says she will do whatever they ask her to do. She is still the actress following the director.

Mother Dolores Hart Today

See picture of Hart with Elvis during the wrap party for King Creole.

To read more, click the title of this post, and see the IMDb.

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