Dolores Hart was born Dolores Hicks in 1938. "I started my film career in 1957," she said. "I was cast by Hal Kanter, who was looking for a young girl nineteen years of age. My photo was sent in by a friend of mine at Marymount College. He thought he would do this as a prank. Hal called me at school, and I went in for an interview. I did a screen test and got the part."
The part she got was as Susan Jessup in Loving You, the second film of a young rock-and-roll sensation named Elvis Presley. Dolores gave Elvis his first on-screen kiss.
She went on to star in a string of successful films, including Wild Is the Wind (1957) with Anthony Quinn; King Creole (1958) with Elvis and Walter Matthau; Lonelyhearts (1959) with Montgomery Clift and Myrna Loy; Where the Boys Are (1960) with George Hamilton; Sail a Crooked Ship (1961) with Robert Wagner; Francis of Assisi (1961); and finally, as the headliner in the comedy Come Fly with Me (1963).
It was to be her last film. That year, though she was engaged to be married, Dolores Hart entered the cloistered Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. She took her final vows in 1970. Recently, she was named prioress of her community.
Mother Dolores stays active in the arts as an Oscar voter for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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When God called me to the religious life, I felt angry. I wanted to live life my way. I wanted to keep acting. I came to Regina Laudis (in 1959) and spoke with Mother Abbess. I said, "I want to be married. I want to have my own family. I want to continue my acting career. But I would like to serve God." She said, "Well, what is it you really want to do?" And we went around and around on this question. Finally, by the end of the afternoon, she said to me, "I think what you’re telling me is you really want to join the monastery." And I said, "No what I really want to do is go home." (Laughs) So I fought it for four and a half years.
I think that our life is whatever we are destined to do by our call or mission. God is within our own being missioning us to do for all eternity what is within us, what our capacity for love is asking of us. And whether we are in the lay state or in the religious life, I think that we will do what we are meant to do if we love the best we can. I don’t think it matters what we decide as long as we love the best. If you are a man who has given your heart and you have really come to know how to love to the best of your ability, hurray for you.
(Mother suffers from a condition called sensory peripheral neuropathy and was asked by a listener who suffered the same condition how she dealt with the pain. "I was told the pain is a gift from God," the caller said.)
The first thing is not to be hard on yourself when you feel you are worth nothing. No matter how much you say "I’m offering this up to the Lord" or "This pain is a gift from God," you can’t help being discouraged. You have to be as kind to yourself as you would be to anybody else in that situation. Try to distract yourself. Watch a movie that you enjoy on the VCR. Do something that you like to do, and don’t feel guilty about it.
The one thing you have to remember is God wants you to feel good. He doesn’t want you to feel pain. When someone says, "Pain is a gift from God," I’m not sure I understand that one.
I don’t think you have to be brave all the time. I think you have to let the Lord be brave within you, and you’ll be surprised the strength that will come to you from as very different place. Because he doesn’t want you to suffer, and he doesn’t want to give you pain. He wants you to be happy. Pain doesn’t come from God. He had to endure pain, but he certainly doesn’t want that for us. Enjoy life wherever you can find joy, and allow that joy to touch your heart.