Review: The Singing Nun (1966)

Sing along with me now: “Dominique nique nique dominique nique nique…”

Though I’m very familiar with the song made famous by the nun known as Soeur Sourire, the now pop culture reference “Dominique”, I’m not old enough to remember the pop phenomenon it became in 1963. I’ve long been curious about the movie based on the nun-hit-wonder, so when I came across it on TCM last month, I ran for the record button. I thought the film would be worth a laugh or two, and was it ever!

Where else could you hope to find Debbie Reynolds, Ricardo Montalban, Agnes Moorehead, Greer Garson, Katharine Ross, Chad Everett, and Ed Sullivan in the same line up! Amazing and strange. Debbie Reynolds is the titular character, a nun who predictably can sing like an angel, but has a lot to learn about striking the right balance between doing good and butting in.

The movie is based on the real story of the Singing Nun’s rise to fame, culminating with her appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The thought of a nun having a Top 40 hit is unimaginable now and as a quaint time capsule this movie is nothing more than superficial cotton candy–and not in a good way.

Reynolds is her usual spunky self, Garson is serene as the Reverend Mother, Moorehead is snippy as a put-upon senior nun, and Everett has this strange Clark Gable-style delivery. Sister Ann’s dilemma comes when fame lures her to a crisis of faith. Unlike the film’s upbeat ending, the real Singing Nun left the church, was an activist for birth control, and died in a double suicide. Now, imagine Debbie Reynold’s in that movie. [** out of 5]

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