Recently I watched two film adaptations of Joan of Arc: La passion de Jeanne d’Arc, a 1928 French silent motion picture with a captivating performance by Renée Jeanne Falconetti, and Messenger, the Story of Joan of Arc featuring Milla Jovovich in a 1999 Luc Besson movie. The legend of a young woman fighting for her faith and her country is both inspiring and touching. I can’t help but think of Mother Dolores Hart, who has also played Joan of Arc in a Del Rey Players theater production here at LMU. More so, it’s her intriguing story of fame and faith that illuminates a deeper connection between Mother Dolores and the Maid of Orleans.
In 1956, Dolores Hicks was a freshman student majoring in Theater Arts at Marymount College. As a result of early collaboration between Loyola University of Los Angeles and Marymount College, Dolores played the feminine lead in Maxwell Anderson’s “Joan of Lorraine” with the Del Rey Players, an all student run theater company at Loyola. The Loyola Marymount University Historical Photograph Collection presents some unique moments of rehearsal sessions with Dolores and the Del Rey Players, including Bob Denver, who played the Dauphin and later became popularly known in the television series Gilligan’s Island.
In 1957, Dolores made her silver screen debut as Dolores Hart in Loving You with Elvis Presley. From there, she quickly rose to stardom and played opposite major movie stars. After five years of prolific acting in ten films, the 25-year-old actress made an astonishing decision to become a cloistered nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. She once said, “I just knew that this was what God wanted from me.”While her movie career waned, a new beginning opened for Reverend Mother Doroles Hart, O.S.B. She creatively integrated acting and film into monastic life, and co-founded an open air theater at the Abbey with late actress Patricia Neal. She is also active in philanthropic causes, raising awareness for Peripheral Idiopathic Neuropathy Disorder. As Prioress of Regina Laudis, Mother Dolores continues to be a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
The story of Mother Dolores Hart is fascinating. Her strength to live by her faith and her courage to seek profound spiritual growth in a material world resonate deeply with us today.
Like Joan, Dolores becomes a legend of her own.