Though she shared the screen with such stars as Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift and Anna Magnani in the course of her brief acting career, Dolores Hart received more notice in Hollywood history books...
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Entertainment Weekly reporter Thom Geier launched a bid to track down Dolores Hart last year (10) - and found her at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, where she is now known as Mother Dolores.
After kissing Elvis in the 1957 film and making a name for herself opposite stars like Anthony Quinn and Montgomery Clift, the then 24-year-old actress decided Hollywood wasn't for her and she checked into the abbey after attending the premiere of Come Fly With Me in 1963.
She tells the publication, "I had always wanted to be an actress, from the time I was seven years old. But I realised very concretely it was not the call."
The 72-year-old Roman Catholic nun's only links to Hollywood these days comes once a year when she votes for the Academy Awards after becoming an Academy member in 1960.
Though she shared the screen with such stars as Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift and Anna Magnani in the course of her brief acting career, Dolores Hart received more notice in Hollywood history books for her decision to abandon stardom for life as a nun in 1963. A pert, intelligent and confident performer, Hart proved equally capable at both high drama like "Wild is the Wind" (1957) and lightweight fare like "Loving You" (1957), the first of two films opposite Presley, and "Where the Boys Are" (1960). A retreat to the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in 1959 left Hart feeling a void in her life that could not be filled by acting, and in 1963, she left Hollywood to take her vows as a nun. For the next four decades, Hart led the monastic life of a Benedictine nun, returning occasionally to the spotlight to recall her religious calling, most notably for a 2012 documentary short, "God is the Bigger Elvis," which received an Oscar nomination. Though her film career was an admirable footnote in her life, Hart's dedication to her religious order was proof positive that some things held greater resonance than Hollywood stardom.
She was born Dolores Hicks in Chicago, IL on Oct. 20, 1938. The daughter of actor Bert Hicks and his wife, Harriet, she was also related by marriage, through an aunt, to singer Mario Lanza. Her father's career immediately enamored Hart to such an extent that she planned to become an actress at an early age. But her parents' divorce halted her chances of being a child performer, and she escaped the chaos of their split by relocating to Chicago to live with her grandparents. There, she received an education in Hollywood films from her grandfather, a projectionist at a local movie theater. Hart eventually returned to Los Angeles, where she earned the lead role in a school production of Saint Joan. A friend with connections to Paramount sent word to producer Hal Wallis about Hart, and he brokered a screen test and contract with the studio for her while she was still in her teens.
Hart made a considerable splash with her first film role as Elvis Presley's love interest in the 1957 musical drama "Loving You" (1957). The success of the film made Hart an in-demand supporting performer, and she was soon cast in major productions like George Cukor's "Wild is the Wind" (1957) with Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani, and "Lonelyhearts" (1958), a sanitized take on Nathaneal West's novel Miss Lonelyhearts, with Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy and Maureen Stapleton. That same year, she reteamed with Presley for one of his best features, Michael Curtiz's "King Creole" (1958). Such a string of prestigious projects seemed to indicate that Hart was destined for stardom.
But while filming the Western "The Plunderers" (1959), Hart began to feel pangs of doubt about the life of a professional actor. She experienced a career triumph that year with her Broadway debut in "The Pleasure of His Company" (1959), which earned her a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award. She was later approached to reprise her performance in a 1961 film version, but soon discovered that Debbie Reynolds had been cast in the role. Disillusioned and weary from the play's schedule, she was advised by a friend to take a retreat at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT. Hart found the experience physically and, more important, spiritually rejuvenating, and would return to the abbey several times over the next two years.
Hart worked steadily throughout 1960, scoring a hit with the then-controversial "Where the Boys Are" (1960) as one of four college girls exploring their sexuality while on spring break. Her turn in "Francis of Assisi" (1961) as a young aristocrat who gave up her worldly possessions to follow the 13th century saint (Bradford Dillman) by becoming a nun proved remarkably prescient; after completing "The Inspector" (1962), an emotionally taxing film in which she played a Holocaust survivor, and the lightweight comedy "Come Fly With Me" (1963), Hart realized that she was in spiritual crisis. She broke off her engagement to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson and returned to the Regina Laudis abbey, where she turned her back on the motion picture industry and began taking vows to become a nun.
Hart became Sister Dolores Hart after completing her vows in 1970. She embraced the monastic life of the order, which included several hours of prayer a day and maintaining the farm and property at the abbey. Hart also spearheaded a project to further develop the abbey's connection to the community around them through yearly theater productions, some of which were co-funded through her relationship with Hollywood talent like Paul Newman and Patricia Neal. In 1999, Hart suffered a crippling bout of peripheral idiopathic neuropathy disorder, a neurological disorder that left her wheelchair-bound for months. After her recovery, Hart, who became Prioress of the Abbey in 2001, returned to Hollywood for the first time in 43 years to help raise awareness about the disorder, and later testified before a Congressional hearing on her ordeal. In 2012, Hart made headlines for her appearance on the red carpet at the 2012 Academy Awards. She was promoting the documentary short subject "God is the Bigger Elvis" (2012), which chronicled her journey from Hollywood to the abbey. It was her first appearance at a Hollywood event since 1959.
By Paul Gaita
were engaged in 1962; remained friends after separating