As the only nun to be a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., will make her first appearance at the Oscars in 53 years when she steps onto the red carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night.
Now 73 and prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., Mother Dolores was a promising young actress whose credits included two movies with Elvis Presley when she gave up her film career in 1963 to enter the cloistered order.
And although she never looked back, she never completely severed her ties to Hollywood. Over the years, friends and neighbors like Paul Newman and Patricia Neal supported her efforts to expand the abbey’s commitment to the arts, including sponsorship of a summer theater program. In 2006, she returned to Hollywood to raise awareness for peripheral idiopathic neuropathy, a painful and crippling condition that afflicts many people, including her.
She’s returning this year because a documentary film about her life, “God Is the Bigger Elvis,” to be shown on HBO in April, is an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary (Short Subject). She told a USA Today interviewer that she cooperated with the filming, allowing cameras into the monastery, as a way to “invite the world into another order of life that might give some hope” to those who are soul searching.
For that reason alone, the film promises to be a winner—whether or not it gets the Oscar.
It’s also a winner, in our eyes, for telling the still-fascinating story of Mother Dolores. At a time that vocations to religious life are scarce, her obvious happiness with her choice is inspiring. She told her interviewer that she doesn’t watch her old films too much any more because “that thrill is gone.” She said, “I know what I have here is the best thing I will ever have.”
The reality of Mother Dolores’ life is a striking counterpoint to the vulgar, disrespectful performance by Nicki Minaj at the Grammy Awards show earlier this month.
After arriving on the red carpet wearing a red nun’s “habit” and accompanied by a man wearing white vestments and a miter suggesting the pope, she took the stage later with an extravagant and borderline pornographic production depicting an exorcism that opened with a confessional scene and went downhill from there. The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys, should be ashamed.
Beyond that, however, the Grammy Awards were unfortunately overshadowed by the tragic and unexpected death of Whitney Houston, 48, just hours before the show.
A world-class entertainer who started singing in a church choir and never forgot her Newark roots, Ms. Houston fought a long and very public battle with drug and alcohol abuse. It’s a battle she sadly did not win. Her family has our prayers.