Friday, October 19, 2018

CELEBRATING DOLORES HART: The Virginian, The Mountain of the Sun (1963)


Virginie is celebrating the 80th birthday of Dolores Hart on October 20th with a blogathon running on October 18th to the 20th at her site, The Wonderful World of Cinema. Click HERE to read all of the contributions.

THE VIRGINIAN: THE MOUNTAIN OF THE SUN 



The Virginian ran on NBC from 1962 to 1971 with a unique 90-minute format following the adventures of the characters working on the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming. Cast members changed through the run of the series with the constant being James Drury as Owen Wister's famous man with no name, The Virginian and Doug McClure as top hand Trampas.

The Mountain of the Sun is an episode which aired near the end of the first season on April 17, 1963. It was in this year that guest star Dolores Hart entered the Benedictine Regina Laudis Monastery beginning her vocation as a nun. The episode was written by Harry Kleiner (Carmen Jones) based on a story by Lou Morheim (The Big Valley) and directed by Bernard McEveety (Gunsmoke).

The Virginian is far from Shiloh with two goals in mind. First, he is to deliver a bull purchased from Shiloh by a local rancher. Second, he is looking for a man named Dixon played by George Wallace (The Edge of Night). The cowboy had been briefly employed at Shiloh and left the ranch after stealing money and keepsakes from his co-workers.

Dolores Hart

On board the train to the rough border town of San Pablo The Virginian becomes acquainted with three widows Cathy Maywood played by Dolores Hart (Lonelyhearts, Francis of Assisi), Helen Dyer played by Jeanette Nolan (Dirty Sally, The Big Heat) and Ruth Arlen played by Amzie Strickland (The Andy Griffith Show, Kotch).

Jeanette Nolan, Amzie Strickland

The women are missionaries whose calling is taking them into dangerous territory to deal with an even more dangerous Yaqui tribe.

George Wallace, James Drury

The women find a guide to take them to the Yaquis, but he is the thief, Dixon. The Virginian, hearing of the dubious guide trails the travelers to discover that Dixon has robbed and stranded the women. Dixon also attempts to murder the Virginian when caught. It is Dixon who is left dead as The Virginian continues on to rescue the three missionaries.

James Drury

The Virginian feels an obligation to protect these sheltered easterners. If possible, he hopes to dissuade them from their plans. His entreaties fall on deaf ears and he then attempts to frighten them by describing the horrific details of the deaths of the previous three missionaries who came this way, unaware that the women are following in the footsteps of their husbands.

Amzie Strickland, Jeanette Nolan, Dolores Hart

The Virginian agrees only to take the women to a fort where perhaps the military will take over their protection. Along their journey, they come across some peasants whose friends and family have been massacred by the Yaquis. The Virginian is moved by the kindness shown to the people and their young, traumatized daughter by his new companions. His concern for these women grows deeper as does his romantic feeling for Cathy.

James Drury, Dolores Hart

The Virginian's feelings are not one-sided. After a run-in with Mexican bandits, Cathy freely admits that she returns the Virginian's love. However, she is deeply conflicted because of her calling. Although her friends try to absolve her from any feelings of guilty should she decide to return to a life with the Virginian, Cathy has great difficulty making an honest decision.

Dolores Hart

Cathy spends a night in prayer which does not bring the answer that was the Virginian's hope.

Even when the Mexican military authorities refuse to accompany the women to the stronghold of the Yaquis, the missionaries are stalwart in their plan. The Virginian cannot let them go alone and together they ride into the danger zone.

Rodolfo Acosta, Jeanette Nolan, Amzie Strickland, Dolores Hart

Rodolfo Acosta plays the leader of the Yaquis and when he hears that these women are the widows of the men he had killed he is impressed with their bravery and their honesty. Perhaps these people with their bibles and their medicines have truly come to help his people. While the Virginian is held captive, the women spend the night helping a sick child. The tribe is impressed and release the Virginian while allowing the women to stay and do the work to which they are so committed.

Dolores Hart, James Drury

The Virginian and Cathy part with the gift of a bible and "Vaya con Dios." They will remain in each other's hearts.

Dolores Hart

Cathy watches the Virginian ride out of her life. Audiences bid farewell to Dolores Hart who was entering a new life.



Trivia:


Jeanette Nolan who played Helen Dyer in this episode would return to the series from 1967 to 1970 with real-life husband John McIntire as owners of the Shiloh Ranch, Holly, and Clay Grainger.












17 comments:

  1. Good write. You make me want to watch the Virginian - somehow I missed it in all my TV watching. I was surprised to learn Hart became a Nun after playing Elvis' girlfriend. How many women have that reaction to Elvis?

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    1. Nothing personal, King. Oh, that made me giggle.

      The Virginian is one of my favourites. Loved it as a kid. Love it and appreciate it now. This episode seems particularly poignant as a farewell from one career to the next for Ms. Hart.

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  2. I guess "the Virginian" is like Doctor Who - no one bothers asking his/her name?
    :-p

    So if Hart had stayed in Hollywood, would she have been a big star, in your opinion? She looks pretty young in these screenshots.

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    1. Very attractive and assured onscreen. I'm not sure if the right roles would have come her way as they 1960s switched gears to more "modern" characters. I think the work would have been there but the big star making turns may have gone to the ingenues nipping at her heels.

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  4. Great article Patricia! This sounds like a complex story haha. You know, I've seen all of Dolores Hart films, but I have seen this particular screen performance. Do you know if it's easy to find? Thanks a lot for your participation to the blogathon!

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    1. I just checked and it is currently up on YouTube. I know you would be happy to see this episode. Season 1, episode 28

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  5. Paddy Lee, I so enjoyed this write-up, because I have been a fan of THE VIRGINIAN ever since I can remember watching TV shows. "The Mountain of the Sun" is a really good episode. James Drury, in interviews, has said that this particular episode stands out for him. "It's one of my favorite episodes," Drury said. "It's really one of the outstanding ones, and I'm very proud of it." Drury and Doloras Hart, now Mother Doloras, have remained good friends for 55 years. Here is what he wrote about her autobiography, which was published in 2013. "THE EAR OF THE HEART is a story of courage, sacrifice, dedication, and fulfillment. With grace and good humor in a voice as clear as the mountain spring, Mother Dolores Hart illuminates her lifelong quest for a state of tranquility and the joy of living in the presence of God."

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    1. How lovely to hear of the enduring friendship. Thank you for sharing.

      The Virginian has been a favourite of mine since childhood and the show has many outstanding episodes. The Mountain of the Sun deserves a place at the top of the list and James Drury's pride in the accomplished is well-deserved.

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  6. I've always been a fan of Dolores Hart (who still gets to vote for the Academy Awards). I don't recall this episode of THE VIRGINIAN, but would think Dolores and James Drury would make an appealing couple. I wonder how many times, though, the Virginian fell in love during the run of the series?

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    1. Very appealing indeed.

      Well, when you've got a handsome leading man and lots of attractive actresses under contract then you've got to have some romance every now and then. Anyway, that would be a fun project to take on.

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  7. Love these Dolores Hart memories. Great post.

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    1. Thank you. This seems to be a special episode to a lot of folks, and The Virginian is one of my favourite programs.

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  8. I didn't know anything about Dolores Hart – I don't think I've seen her in anything, including the 2 Elvis movies – so I did a brief online search. She sounds like a remarkable person, and I was surprised to learn she is the only nun in the Academy.(!)

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    1. Two remarkable careers and devoted friends. Mother Dolores must be a very special person.

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  9. As always, a great read. I am old enough to remember reading all those fan teen magazines about Dolores when she was an Elvis co-star and then being shocked - shocked! - when she changed professions!

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    1. Oh indeed! As a ready of teen fan mags myself, it is impossible to imagine anyone leaving that charmed life, especially for something like religious reasons.

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