Fifty years after leaving Hollywood to become a cloistered Benedictine nun, Mother Dolores Hart, who co-starred with Elvis Presley in 11 movies, will appear at the Academy Awards next Sunday – in her habit.
According to the Huffington Post, an HBO documentary about Mother Dolores, entitled God is the Bigger Elvis has been nominated for an award in the best documentary short category. The film documents her unusual journey from Hollywood starlet to becoming Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut.
The last time Mother Dolores was at the Oscars was in 1959 and the now 73 year-old nun told USA Today that “It will be so nice to be back at the Oscars. It’s such a fun night.”
Hart’s journey is indeed fascinating. She was the daughter of two actors who split her time between Chicago and Los Angeles as a child. Raised in a nominally Catholic home, she lived with her grandparents where she attended parochial school.
Her acting career began at the age of 18 and her first big break came when she landed a co-starring role opposite Elvis Presley in Loving You. She would co-star with Presley again in the 1958 film, King Creole. A beautiful woman, she was often compared with Grace Kelly and seemed to fit the role of a Hollywood starlet perfectly.
But she began to have a change of heart while performing in a Broadway play. On weekends and days off, most of her co-stars would go their “country homes” outside New York City. Hart had no place to go and unwind, so a friend suggested she stay in the guest quarters of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut.
She became instantly enchanted by the sisters, who followed the Rule of St. Benedict and worked so hard together. When she left the abbey after her first visit, she felt “that I was going to be back here sometime.”
And she was. Three years later, in 1963, shortly after the release of Come Fly With Me, Hart said she felt God’s call. Even though she was on top of her acting career and was happily engaged to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson, she gave it all up and entered the abbey as a postulant. She made her final vows in 1970.
“I have struggled with this call to vocation all my life,” Hart told 20/20. “I can understand why people have doubts, because who understands God? I don’t. When you are dealing with something at this level, you are dealing with mystery.”
She insists that she didn’t leave Hollywood because it was a place of sin. “I adored Hollywood,” she told USA Today.
So why did she do it? Hart admits her reasons for leaving stardom for the cloister remain as mysterious today as it did back then.
“I left Hollywood at the urging of a mysterious thing called vocation. It’s a call that comes from another place that we call God because we don’t have any other way to say it. It’s a call of love. Why do you climb a mountain?”
On Sunday, February 26, Dolores Hart will walk the red carpet once again, but this time, she’ll do it as the bride of Christ.