I am a major documentary nerd and darn proud of it. When I was in college my dream job, back when I believed in such silly things, was to work on PBS’s Frontline but that would have required moving to Boston, forgetting how to pronounce “R’s” properly and becoming a Red Sox fan. That was never gonna happen which is precisely how I ended up in advertising and working on how-to product videos instead of how-to-escape ISIS types of exposes.
Every year I maybe see one of two of the Academy Award best picture nominees but I almost always see all the best documentary shorts and films. A couple of years back one of those shorts was called God is the Bigger Elvis, the story of 1960’s Hollywood actress Dolores Hart whose career was on the upswing when she decided to chuck it all in and become a nun. For realz. I mean who hasn’t thought about doing that at least once in their life? No more relationship drama because you’re married to Jesus now, no more bad hair days, it’s all hidden under the wimple, and no more tearing your hair out trying to come up with something to wear to work because that decision has already been made for you. It’s like Stitch Fix without the variety. Other than having to be kinda/sorta religious it sounds pretty heavenly to me.
If you have never seen Where the Boys Are (streamable on Amazon) now is a perfect time to whip up a big batch of popcorn, grab some Milk Duds and make it a double-header Dolores Hart kind of night. Sure it’s a silly little rom-com about spring break in Florida that has been remade by Hollywood in one way or another approximately fifty times since but it’s a perfect companion to the story of what became of the stunningly beautiful woman who played Merritt Andrews.
Dolores Hart got her big break when she kissed the Justin Timberlake of the 1950’s, Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley, in Loving You and made nine films in five years before taking a studio limousine to the Regina Laudis Abbey in Connecticut (when she was supposed to be out promoting a movie) where she still lives today along with an assortment of birds and cows and a cute little llama.
God is the Bigger Elvis tells the story not just of Mother Prioress Dolores but also a few of her very interesting roommates including novice Sister John Mary, a glamazon British former ad exec with a background in politics who I am pretty sure I could be besties with. She’s in AA now so cocktails might be out but dinner and a movie seem pretty reasonable the next time I am in NYC.
The title is a bit misleading because Dolores didn’t really give up Elvis for her beliefs. She was engaged however (with the beautiful Edith Head designed dress ready to go and the invites in the mail), to a lovely Jimmy Stewart kind of man named Don Robinson. He was an architect and in the process of designing their future home when Dolores decided a Hollywood career, a man who loved her like mad and a mid-century modern with a cooler-than-crap pool was not in her future. Okay I made that last part up because mid-century modern is my favorite kind of house and the timing was right and OMG I found this house when I Googled mid-century homes and that pool is amaze-balls.
I guess if you are going to be dumped by someone it may as well be for someone like God. It’s not like you are ever going to run into them at the grocery store or the Mall of America. Cute old handsome Don Robinson dated other women but never married anyone else and visited Mother Prioress Dolores twice a year (Easter and Christmas) for 47 years until he died, shortly after the movie was completed. Now that is a true love story worth 36 minutes and 18 seconds of your time.
* I actually have an Elvis tale of my own to tell, when I was a punk-obsessed teenager sporting safety pins for earrings my oldest sister begged me to go see Elvis Presley with her. I don’t know why my other sister or even my mother wouldn’t go, they were more in her age group than I was. But they would not and she was desperate so she promised me a lobster dinner at Steak & Ale and next thing you know I sold my punk-ass soul out for some surf and turf. It was only one night, none of my friends had to know and how bad could it be?
Try REALLY bad, even worse than I could have ever imagined. There were like four opening acts and when Elvis finally appeared he never sang even one song all the way through. It was like one of those old K-tel compilation commercials. The back-up singers hit all the high notes while Elvis spent the entire performance draping his sweaty scarves around the necks of adoring fans. I was pissed for my sister and all the others who were there willingly but apparently they were fine with it because they applauded and cried and had smiles on their faces when Elvis finally left the building.