MOTHER DOLORES HART
In 1962 while making the movie Come Fly with Me actress Dolores Hart confided in her co-star and friend Pamela Tiffin about her desires to enter a monastic life. Pamela’s response, “Oh, but you don’t want to Dolores!” That was my feeling as I began reading Mother Dolores Hart’s entertaining, brutally honest, never preachy, and insightful memoir The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’s Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows co-written by Richard DeNeut.
Rejecting Catholicism in the 7th grade while still in Catholic School, I was rooting for Dolores to stay in Hollywood (even though I obviously knew the outcome). Her years there are vividly remembered as she just loved being an actress. Not only is there back story on some of her movies (not enough for me though) and of course her feelings about Elvis Presley, but she also divulges movie roles she lost or turned down. Her time on Broadway in The Pleasure of His Company gets a lot of space from the moment she auditions through rehearsals to opening night to the Tony Awards ceremony where she was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play to her encounter with that jackass Debbie Reynolds to her introduction to the Abbey Regina Laudis, which is the turning point in her life.
Her early years on honestly retold as well living with a deadbeat father who had dreams of Hollywood stardom and an alcoholic mother. Wanting to fit in with others in her Catholic School in LA, Dolores converted at age 10. For me the most nerve-racking part of the book is when Dolores returns to Hollywood after completing Come Fly with Me. Though engaged, she decides to make the leap to become a cloistered nun. While waiting to see if she is accepted, Dolores breaks up with her financee; keeps her family in the dark; and tries to keep her agent and producer Hal Wallis, whom she is under contract to, at bay. MGM wants to sign her to a very lucrative picture deal and leading lady roles are waiting for her opposite Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford. All she needs to do is sign on the dotted line. However, Dolores is waiting for one role of a higher calling.
After she takes the leap, Mother Dolores does not hold back describing her early years at the Abbey and how she almost left a number of times. While reading, I was fruitlessly hoping for a to return to Hollywood. However, Mother Dolores finally won me over and I accepted her decision to remain there. I always wondered though that since she was a cloistered nun, why have we seen a lot of her in the past 20 years. All things revolve and so does a cloistered abbey as Mother Dolores details with its internal power struggles. We also learn about her Hollywood friends who remained in touch (Karl Malden, Patricia Neal, Lois Nettleton, Mrs. Bob Hope, etc.); the years when she was out of sight and out of mind; how the chant CDs came about in the nineties; her painful muscle illness that she still is battling; and her life today. I for one am glad she is now in the public eye again.
My biggest concern with the book going in was the religious aspect. I am happy to say Mother Dolores does not try in the least to convert anyone but shares her faith and spirituality that has served her all these years. I only a few qualms with the book. First Mother Dolores’ words are all in italics. This is not too distracting during her time in Hollywood as her co-author provides much of the back story, but once she enters the Abbey it is mostly in Mother Dolores’ voice. There also is a bit too much emphasis on the other nuns in the Abbey. I think we learn about almost every single one who has come and went. But other than those minor distractions, I totally recommend this book to fans of celebrity memoirs and especially sixties starlets.