Debbie Reynolds plays the title role as novice Belgian Dominican nun, Sister Ann, careening around the countryside on a motor scooter, getting kicked in the shins in a soccer match, zooming down a slide in a playground, and leading a group of youngsters in Pied Piper fashion.
Sister Ann arrives at Samaritan House to help the poor and underprivileged, bringing with her a guitar (which she calls “Sister Adele”) on which she has composed lighthearted songs which will ultimately make her a celebrity.
When Sister Ann is persuaded to record an album of her songs, her efforts bring her overnight popularity, leading to an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. But her sudden and unexpected fame brings soul-searching personal problems.
Robert Gerarde (Chad Everett) – who fell in love with her when they were fellow students at a music conservatory in Paris – implores to give up her life as a nun in favour of a professional career.
Greer Garson gives a warm performance as the kindly Mother Prioress with other fine portrayals from Ricardo Montalban as cheerful carpentering Father Clementi, Agnes Moorhead as the grumbling and sharp-tongued Sister Cluny, Juanita Moore as Sister Mary and Katharine Ross as the embittered Nicole, who eventually finds a ray of hope in her drab life.
Little Ricky Cordell is completely endearing as the youngster who kicks Sister Ann in the shins and afterwards becomes her greatest friend.
The film was loosely based on the true story of Sister Luc Gabriel, a nun in the Dominican order who had an international #1 pop hit in 1963 with Dominique, billed as ‘The Singing Nun’ and taking the stage name “Sœur Sourire” (Sister Smile).
Unfortunately, Sister Luc Gabriel’s life did not continue happily after her brief taste of chart success. After leaving the church for a full-time music career, she ran into heavy financial problems and eventually took her own life in March 1985 along with her lifelong friend and partner, Annie Pécher.
Larry D. Mann