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Oscars 2012: Mother Dolores Hart, Former Elvis Co-Star, To Walk Red Carpet In Religious Garments

Dolores Hart Elvis

First Posted: 02/15/2012 2:48 pm Updated: 02/19/2012 4:20 pm

Nearly 50 years after leaving Tinseltown to become a cloistered Benedictine nun, Mother Dolores Hart, who starred in films alongside the likes of Elvis Presley and Walter Matthau during her acting career, is returning to Hollywood to appear at the Academy Awards next Sunday. And she'll be wearing her religious habit.

Mother Dolores, 73, is the focus of "God Is the Bigger Elvis", an HBO documentary nominated in the best documentary short category.

The film documents Hart's unusual journey from starring in dozens of Hollywood films to becoming Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., where she acts as spiritual counselor to 38 cloistered nuns, Sojourners reports.

"It will be so nice to be back at the Oscars. It's such a fun night," Hart told USA Today. "The last time I was there was in 1959, when I was a presenter. This will be different."

Back then, Hart was a 21-year-old rising starlet who had already starred in films alongside Elvis Presley, George Hamilton and Montgomery Clift, USA Today reported.

A few years later, she was at the peak of her acting career on the trail of a seven-figure contract, and was happily engaged to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson.

But by then Hart's feelings about Hollywood had already started to change, a shift that began some years before when she was performing in a Broadway play , Sojourner reported.

Whenever the play went on hiatus, many actors would go up to friends' vacation homes in upstate New York. But Hart didn't know anyone, so a friend suggested that she stay at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, which offers a number of guest rooms.

It was there that Hart got to know the sisters of Regina Laudis and fell in love with their way of life. In 1963, to the devastation of her fiance, Hart entered the Abbey as a postulant and took her final vows seven years later.

"I adored Hollywood. I didn't leave because it was a place of sin," Hart told USA Today.

After all, Hart was a Los Angeles native who grew up on Mullholland Drive overlooking the lights of Hollywood, she explained in a 20/20 Interview.

Hart had another explanation for leaving, one she says remains just as mysterious today as it did back then.

"I left Hollywood at the urging of a mysterious thing called vocation. It's a call that comes from another place that we call God because we don't have any other way to say it. It's a call of love. Why do you climb a mountain?"

CLARIFICATION: Language previously used in this story incorrectly implied that Hart starred alongside Elvis in 11 movies. The story has been updated for greater clarity.

WATCH Hart's 20/20 interview below:

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Filed by Jocelyn Richard  |