Love Me Tender: Mother Dolores Hart on Elvis, her Big Bang Theory of Sexuality, and her Oscar-nominated short ‘God Is the Bigger Elvis’
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Look up Dolores Hart on IMDB -- and prepare to be wowed. Hart, a Hollywood brat discovered while attending Marymount College, starred opposite Elvis in "Loving You" (1957). George Cukor directed her and Anna Magnani in "Wild is the Wind" (1957). The future prioress starred in the cult favorite "Where the Boys Are" (1960) -- and even played a nun in Michael Curtiz's "Francis of Assisi" (1961). And then, in 1963, at age 24 on the verge of marriage and following the premiere of her final feature, "Come Fly With Me," this leading lady who had been compared to Grace Kelly and kissed "the King" on screen, entered the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut.
Yes, the Hollywood star gave up the spotlight for God. According to the Oscar-nominated documentary short, "God is the Bigger Elvis," Hart discovered an inner peace and contentment in the cloister that had been absent on stage and screen, and in her engagement to California businessman Don Robinson. Hart has confessed it's tough explaining the change in vocation, but has described it as: "Falling in love. One falls in love with the Lord." Now, the feisty 73-year-old Prioress, Mother Dolores Hart, will not only attend the Oscars this weekend, she voted for them. She's the only nun currently a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Thelma Adams: Why did you agree to make "God Is the Bigger Elvis" for HBO?
Mother Dolores Hart: About two years ago I was taken to Washington, D.C., by a friend of mine for another reason and there I met the now-deceased Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the delegate of the Holy See. When I walked into the office, he stretched out his arms to me and said "Mother Dolores, we would like to make a film on consecrated life." But Your Excellency, I don't have any contacts, I said. I'm no longer a part of the motion picture industry, and I am an enclosed nun. And he said "The Lord will provide." I said I'm sorry, I can't do it. He said, "Pray about this. I'm sure something will happen because the world needs to know about enclosed life." He said, "They really don't know about consecrated life." And we talked for at least two hours, and he showed me his home, and took me to see all the beautiful art pieces that he had, and walked me to my car, which has never happened to me before. I told this to the abbey, and the abbess, and two days later HBO called me -- and neither one had been in touch with the other. We were floored. It was obviously somebody upstairs.
TA: And you don't mean Jeffrey Katzenberg.
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MDH: [laughs] Only the Lord! Obviously, we have to do it. We had never opened the doors of the abbey to this sort of interview, not since we were founded in 1946.
TA: Had any filmmakers ever contacted you personally since you joined the cloister in 1963?
MDH: Of course, but I always had to say no. It wasn't possible. Here was a new precedent, and there was a new reason. The request had come from…it was a request that we couldn't deny
TA: It sounds like "The Godfather."
MDH: So, yes, we said we could do it, and we've never regretted it. HBO could not have been more reverent, centered, and gentle and more really focused in what they were doing. I think they were more frightened than we were. I think Sheila Nevins prepared her group with all of the elegance and creativity of a mother superior.