The Deacon's Bench

I saw this item last week in my local diocesan paper, the Brooklyn Tablet, and made a mental note: “Link to this.” And, of course, I forgot. But better late than never.

It’s a fascinating glimpse at the celebrated starlet who became a cloistered nun, Dolores Hart:

As Dolores Hart, she was a well-known and successful actress of film, stage and television in the late 1950’s and early 1960s. As Mother Dolores Hart, a cloistered Benedictine nun, she has spent the last 45 years in monastic life at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

Before entering into a lifetime contract with God in 1963, she earned the distinction of becoming the first actress to kiss Elvis Presley on the big screen in their first movie, ‘“Loving You” in 1957. The following year, she again starred with Presley in “King Creole.”

“Elvis was such a sweet, personable young man,” recalled Mother Dolores during an exclusive interview with The Tablet. “He would always call me Miss Dolores. The only other persons who called me that were Clark Gable and Mother Abbess when I was a postulant.”

“I must say, however, he was the most pleasant individual, very gentle and very dedicated to his dear mother.”

Although the two were still teenagers when they made their first film together, Elvis had already gained stardom with his rock and roll music.

“Because I co-starred with Elvis, people kept coming up to me asking if I could get them a lock of his hair!” recalled Mother Dolores with a chuckle.

She recalls an incident that describes the humility and thoughtfulness of Elvis. One day while filming “King Creole,” the streets of New Orleans were jammed with people trying to get a glimpse of The King. She hopped into the back of a limo with Elvis to drive to the movie set. A young girl put her arm into the slightly opened window of the car to try to touch Elvis as the car was moving.

“I remember so well my shouting at Elvis to tell the driver to stop the car. The driver didn’t stop. Elvis then grabbed the driver and shouted that he must stop the car immediately. Elvis got out of the car to check to see if the young lady was okay. He told the girl that he was not as important as she was.

“Later, when I was here at the Abbey, I received a call from that woman thanking me for what Elvis and I did to help her. It was evident that Elvis Presley was a very caring and self-deprecating individual.”

And as for that on-camera kiss? “It was the kiss that lasted over 45 years!” she says with an impish radiance that betrays the actress still in her.

On matters of religion, spirituality or faith, Mother Dolores points out that Elvis did not discuss such topics with her “but many times on the set, in between breaks, Elvis would ask me how often I read the Bible or if I had a favorite Psalm. He seemed to always want to know if there was a Bible around somewhere.”

Elvis loved to sing and record Gospel music. “Those spiritual songs had an unquestionable depth of soul to them,” she notes. “They were like incarnational expressions for all who heard them. Elvis no doubt touched something very deep in the heart and soul of so many individuals. He reached deep down into that place that awakened a call to Christ. I have no doubt that Elvis Presley made the Lord a reality for others not only in his Gospel music but in his countless gestures of generosity and caring compassion. People seemed to be called out of darkness by his voice in those songs of deep devotion, hope and abiding faith.”

When Elvis died, Mother recalled being “deeply, deeply pained. He was so talented, so glorious.”

Spanning a fulfilling and exciting six-year period, Hart worked with such Hollywood giants as Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani in “Wild is the Wind” (1957) and Montgomery Clift and Myrna Loy in the memorable production of “Lonelyhearts” (1958). She was the top-billing actress in MGM’s highest grossing film of 1962, “Where The Boys Are.” “It was the one film in which I had the most fun. It was an absolute blast,” she said. In that film she co-starred with Connie Francis and the seemingly always tanned, George Hamilton.

Hart also played St. Clare in the film, “Francis of Assisi” (1961) and had a role in “Come Fly With Me” (1963) with Hugh O’Brian, Lois Nettleton (a lifelong friend of Hart) and Karl Madden. Other films to her credit are a western, “The Plunderers” (1959) with Jeff Chandler, and “Sail A Crooked Ship” (1962) with Robert Wagner.

On Broadway, she appeared opposite George Peppard in “The Pleasure of His Company,” for which she received a Tony nomination. Her television work included “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Playhouse 90” and “The Virginians.”

Read more about her remarkable career — in and out of the cloister — and check out some of Ed Wilkinson’s exclusive pictures of her today at the link.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus