Who Had Everything Found More"
ABCNEWS.com, Sep 2004)
than 40 years ago, Dolores Hart was one of the most visible
and envied women in Hollywood.
day Dolores Hart entered the convent, she had her
limousine drop her at the gates.
of Delores Hart)
Role, New Life
the late 1950s, Hart was a starlet, making thousands of
dollars per week and billed as the next Grace Kelly. She
was the first actress to kiss Elvis Presley on the silver
screen and in a six-year period, she starred in films with
Anthony Quinn, Robert Wagner, Jeff Chandler, and Montgomery
was the top-billed actress in MGM's highest grossing move
of 1962: Where the Boys Are. Today she is Mother Dolores.
She lives at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in rural Connecticut,
where she has been a cloistered nun for 37 years.
a special dispensation from the Abbey, ABCNEWS' Bob Brown
was able to talk with her without being separated by a grill
and walk with her outside the fences of the cloistered grounds.
Destined for Greatness
was a child of the silver screen — both of her parents were
actors. Though neither of them became a star, she was baptized
in the glow of Hollywood. Early on, she thought she too
would have a career in the movies. "I grew up on Mulholland
Drive, watching the klieg lights, just enamored at the lights
from Sunset Boulevard," she says.
can imagine what that meant to me, as a 6-year-old, to suddenly
find myself wandering around 20th Century Fox movie lots,
thinking that was going to be my future." Though her parents
were not religious, they sent her to a parochial school
in Chicago where she lived with her grandparents. Leaving
Hollywood, however, was a brief diversion from her path
to the silver screen. Hart grew into a striking beauty and
in 1957, at the age of 18, she signed a contract with famed
movie producer Hal Wallis.
in her first picture, Loving You, she starred opposite Elvis
Presley. Hart recalls that when she and Elvis were supposed
to kiss, the teens blushed. "My ears start getting purple,
and even his ears started getting purple," she recalls.
"They brought everybody over to brush our ears down with,
um, paint or whatever it is." She has fond memories of working
with Elvis: "If there is one thing that I am most grateful
for, it's the privilege of being one of the few persons
left to acknowledge his innocence."
Peace in the Country
her success and celebrity, however, Hart remembers her time
in show business as filled with heartache. She found it
emotionally difficult to separate from her colleagues after
bonding with them while shooting a movie. "You work intensely
for maybe eight to 10 weeks. And then you break," she says.
"And you never see the person again. It's terrible… I think
that's one of the most anguishing parts of Hollywood." During
a period in which she worked in New York, starring in a
Broadway play, Hart would often retreat to the country on
her days off. On the suggestion of a friend, she took refuge
in the guest house of a Connecticut convent, Abbey of Regina
was initially hesitant about the abbey, thinking back on
her experience as a Catholic schoolgirl in Chicago. But
unlike Hollywood, it offered community and continuity. Its
members worked hard and stayed together. Hart was hooked:
"I felt that I was going to be back here sometime." More
than three years after the first of several visits to the
convent, Hart was engaged to be married. But instead of
becoming a wife, she says she had a spiritual calling and
dedicated herself to the Church and life at Regina Laudis.
California businessman Don Robinson — Delores Hart's fiancé
at the time - the news was devastating. "I actually broke
down and cried," he recalls. "I couldn't believe it." New
Role, New Life The day Hart entered Regina Laudise, her
limousine dropped her off following a publicity event for
her latest movie Come Fly with Me.
was 24 years old. She found the transition into the sisterhood
difficult. Trained as a movie star, Hart was ill prepared
for the daily, disciplined ebb and flow of cloistered life.
Seven years passed, she says, before she felt completely
comfortable with her decision to join the order.
later, Robinson still lives in Los Angeles and has never
married. He continues to visit the woman he now knows as
Mother Dolores each year. He says their love has sustained
itself — albeit in ways very different from what he'd imagined
as a younger man. "We have grown together. Like we would
have in our marriage," he says, "She's my life."
recent years, Mother Dolores's health has declined. She
suffers from a nerve condition that sometimes leaves her
in extreme pain. And even though she clearly made a choice
to become a nun, she says it was not a choice to abandon
who she was. "I have struggled with this call to vocation
all my life," she says. "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
Dolores and the Oscars
Dolores, formerly Delores Hart, is still a member of the
Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. But she has
not been able to vote for the Oscar winners since joining
the Abbey of Regina Laudis — she cannot leave the abbey
to see the films. Recently, however, she has asked the Academy
to reinstate her as a voting member. She plans to watch
the films on home video.