Leaving Hollywood for a Higher Calling

ByABC News
August 6, 2002, 7:03 PM

Aug. 9, 2002 — -- Next Friday marks the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. But before he became a sexy, hip-swiveling idol, he was a somewhat shy young man who blushed in his first onscreen kiss. And Dolores Hart, the woman who gave Elvis that kiss, has an extraordinary story of her own.

In the late 1950s, Hart was one of the most visible and envied women in Hollywood. She was a beautiful young starlet billed as the next Grace Kelly.

She starred in films with Anthony Quinn, Robert Wagner, Jeff Chandler, and Montgomery Clift, and was the top-billed actress in MGM's highest-grossing movie 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.

Through a special dispensation from the Abbey, ABC News' Bob Brown was able to talk with her.

Hart was a child of the silver screen both of her parents were actors. Early on, Hart 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. "You 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. That year she was catapulted to fame, starring opposite a 23-year-old Presley in the film Loving You.

Hart recalled that when she and Elvis were supposed to kiss, they 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."