Already we have another lovely classic movie actress celebrating a milestone birthday this week! This time I’m talking about the delightful Dolores Hart, who still graces us with her presence at a radiant 80 years young! I’ve admired Dolores ever since I first saw her in Where the Boys Are (1960), one of the most entertaining and complex teen features of the decade, and her own personal journey intrigued me even more. Despite receiving lavish acclaim and prominent roles in films like Loving You (1957) and King Creole (1958) with Elvis Presley and Sail A Crooked Ship (1962) with Robert Wagner and more, Dolores left Hollywood at the tender age of twenty-four, followed her heart, and became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut in 1963, where she remains today. I’ve been so eager to discover more of Dolores’ work, so many thanks to Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema, one of my all-time favorite blogs and bloggers, for allowing us to salute such a fascinating and inspiring human being on the 80th anniversary of her birth!
The Dolores film that I chose, Come Fly With Me (1963), tells the story of three stewardesses working for Polar Atlantic Airways who quickly become best friends. Throughout the film these three young women travel the world, but during a flight from New York City to Paris, they each meet men who will change their lives forever. The first, Donna Stuart (Dolores Hart), dreams of a lavish life and appears to have found her ticket to riches when she becomes involved with Baron Franz Von Elzingen (Karlheinz Böhm), but everything is not what it seems when the Baron begins entrusting her with mysterious cases of luxurious cigarettes. The second is adorable and scatterbrained Carol Brewster (Pamela Tiffin), who’s immediately smitten with her plane’s First Officer, Ray Winsley (Hugh O’Brian). At first the two hit it off and everything is susnshine and roses, but when she discovers that Ray has been involved in an on-again, off-again affair with the married Katie Rinnard (Dawn Addams), she begins to doubt his sense of morality and his sincerity about their relationship. The third airline hostess is Hilda “Bergie” Bergstrom (Lois Nettleton), a modest and sensible woman who meets Texan Walter Lucas (Karl Malden) in the coach section of the flight. This leads her to believe that Walter isn’t very well off, and his expensive dates and chivalry embarrasses Bergie and makes her question his intentions. Will these three love affairs take off to the skies, or will complications keep these ladies on the ground?
The only picture of Dolores Hart’s that I had seen before writing my entry for this blogathon was Where the Boys Are (1960), so when it came to discovering her work, the world was my oyster. I pondered over a few of her pictures before finally settling on Come Fly With Me (1963) for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, airline hostesses and the newfound concept of commerical airlines in the sixties really intrigued me after becoming interested in more current media like the television show Pan-Am (2011-21012), and I thought that a picture about the subject would be something that I’d enjoy, especially with a cast that includes Dolores and one of the supporting actors closest to my heart, Karl Malden. Come Fly With Me (1963) became even more appealing when I learned how important it was at this time in Dolores’ life. It was her final film, and during production she had already made up her mind to devote her life to God.
In fact, it was on a 1963 New York promotional stop for Come Fly with Me (1963) that she took a one-way car ride to the abbey in which she would eventually take her final vows and remain. It was during filming that she also became close friends with costar Karl Malden. Karl wrote in his autobiography, When Do I Start? (2004), that when he and his wife Mona went out on dates, Dolores would babysit their two children. She adored them, and in time became a member of the family. It was shortly after Come Fly With Me (1963) wrapped that Dolores became engaged to architect Don Robinson, and she even asked Karl’s daughters, Mila and Carla, to be her bridesmaids for the occasion. Not long after, Dolores appeared at the Maldens’ residence and announced she was calling off the wedding, later bringing the girls all of her worldly possessions and telling them to take what they wanted. To quote Malden’s book further, she told him that she was moving away and that it was “an affair of the heart”, not only leaving behind her fiancé and newfound family, but also her success as a movie star.
As far as the picture itself is concerned, it has its high and low points. I really enjoyed each of the leading ladies’ performances, but I found the script to be lacking. It expected the audience to follow and sympathize with three drastically different relationships, and while some certainly were worth my attention, others were not. As much as I really wanted to devote myself to Donna’s plotline for Dolores’ sake, hers was actually the worst. I could easily see her acting talent shine through in this picture, but her chemistry with Karlheinz Böhm took a tailspin as soon as they said hello. It doesn’t take much figuring to see that the Baron is a despicable person for using Donna in order to smuggle stolen jewels, and even if there were any feelings involved on his end, I still wouldn’t root for this couple to succeed in a million years. The relationship between Bergie and Walter, on the other hand, was the only subplot that I was truly delighted to see onscreen. I may be biased because I think Karl Malden is excellent in just about anything that he appears in, but his interactions with Nettleton are incredibly endearing, and I would have watched a film depicting this pair by itself any day.
Variety’s review of the film reads as follows: “Sometimes one performance can save a picture and in Come Fly with Me it’s an engaging and infectious one by Pamela Tiffin. The production has other things going for it like an attractive cast, slick pictorial values and smart, stylish direction by Henry Levin, but at the base of all this sheer sheen lies a frail, frivolous and featherweight storyline that, in trying to take itself too seriously, flies into dramatic air pockets and crosscurrents that threaten to send the entire aircraft into a tailspin.” While this is a touch harsh, I can’t say that I disagree in the slightest as, even despite my love for Malden and Nettleton in this movie, I can’t deny that Pamela Tiffin’s performance is undoubtedly the most promising. I didn’t think much of her character’s romance with her philandering pilot either, but I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of her in this film, and her role truly holds the flimsy screenplay together throughout. If you’re watching Come Fly With Me (1963) for Dolores Hart, I won’t say that you’ll end up disappointed. Dolores sparkles like a diamond, as does the majority of the cast, but personally I’m a lot more excited to discover other pictures that feature this captivating actress on her 80th birthday.