The Nun's Story

I realize this is a little obscure and may not get a response. But I watched this movie last night and I’m wondering if anyone knows it and has an opinion?

It stars Audrey Hepburn and was made in 1959.

an excellent movie showing the demands of a religious vocation, and the reasons why it may be hard to accept. The character freely acknowledged that obedience was her problem, and repeatedly ignored the advice of people inside and outside the convent who knew her, but in the end came to see that she did not belong in the convent. It was not critical of “the system” so much as illuminating it. The book the movie is based on is a true autobiographical story as I recall.

Yes, this was my take as well. Since I am a recent convert I was interested how longtime Catholics would view it.

I thought it was very well written and performed brilliantly.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Very sad story. In real life the woman on whom Sr Luke was based ended up falling very low after leaving the convent. Eventually she comitted suicide.

Do you have a source? I would be interested in knowing her full story.

Re: the movie, The Nun’s Story

Gabrielle Van Der Mal gave up everything to become a nun. But her faith and her vows are forever being tested: more

Re: Gabrielle Van Der Mal

From Time Magazine, an article called “The Failure” written in 1956, note the last paragraph (emphasis, mine):

"As for Gabrielle Van der Mal (a pseudonym), she came to the U.S. in 1951 with Author Hulme, under whom she had served in a U.N. refugee mission. The ex-nun has since become nursing supervisor of a large Los Angeles hospital and last month she became an American citizen. If she has any more to say it is probably what she says in The Nun’s Story: “I’m not leaving the Church—only you, my sisters, and our Holy Rule that I am not strong enough to conform to . . remember this and feel no slight or sorrow.”

As I dug for Sister Luke Wikipedia opened with** this**:

"Hulme wrote the book based partly upon the experiences of her friend, Marie-Louise Habets, a Belgian nurse and an ex-nun (it is often erronously stated that the book was based upon Hulme’s own experiences). The lead character of the book, Sister Luke (real name Gabrielle Van Der Mal) finds her faith tested in Africa…

And digging further for Marie-Louise Habets I came across the obituary for Kathryn Hulme (emphasis, mine): KATHRYN C. HULME, AUTHOR WHO WROTE ‘NUN’S STORY,’ DEAD By ROBERT D. MCFADDEN
Kathryn C. Hulme, the author of ‘‘The Nun’s Story,’’ a 1956 best seller that was made into an award-winning movie starring Audrey Hepburn, died on Tuesday at Wilcox Hospital in Lihue, Hawaii. She was 81 years old and lived on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Marie Louise Habets, a former Belgian nun who was the subject of ‘‘The Nun’s Story,’’ and had been the writer’s companion and business partner for many years, was with Miss Hulme when she died.
August 28, 1981 Obituaries Obituary

There is no mention of how Habets died, but this article places her death at 1986.

As for the movie, every article I came across online raves about it. I’m going to have to add it to my Blockbuster list. :wink:

Thank you for all of the information. The movie really is quite well done.

The book is wonderful!! I’ve read it at least three times before I ever realized there was a movie made from the story!

Apparently it’s out of print, but you can buy used copies HERE

Highly recommended! :thumbsup:


I saw the movie a few times as a young one, hasn’t been shown on TV lately and I’ve never come across a video or DVD of it.

Really good story, well done (and as a massive Audrey Hepburn fan it’s a huge bonus that she’s in it.) Five stars :thumbsup:

I have to agree about Audrey Hepburn. I think she is the most beautiful woman ever…of course with exception of my wife. :wink:

it’s not a well known movie except among audrey hepburn fans. i think i read somewhere that she took on the role to prove she could really act. and boy, does she ever. it’s the most assured performance of her career.


With reference to recent discussion of The Nun’s Story (book and film), I was surprised to read that Marie Louise Habets, the real-life nun and ex-nun on whom the main character was based, “committed suicide”.

In fact she died of natural causes in 1986, at the age of 81, having shared nearly 40 years of her life with Kathryn Hulme, author of The Nun’s Story.

For more information about these fascinating and inspiring women, please see my article in the British catholic magazine The Tablet:

Best wishes
Zoe Fairbairns

There may be some confusion here between Habets and another real-life nun who was portrayed in film: Jeanine Deckers, also known as “The Singing Nun.” Debbie Reynolds played her in the movie. She was a former nun who committed suicide.

Can anybody say me why she (Marie-Louise Habets) is mentioned as a famous GLBT (Gay-Lesbic-Bi-Trans…)?. Sorry for the unpleasant link:

It is truly?


I don’t see any need for you to apologise for the GLTB link. I don’t see anything “unpleasant” on it.

I’ve no idea whether Habets and Hulme were lovers in the physical sense. I’ve researched their lives and found no evidence either way. Why does it matter? Surely the point is that two fine women - both strong, both vulnerable - found each other and made a life together, for more than 40 years.


Best wishes


I love this film. I watched it as a child and I loved the rituals and the praying. So moving.

I have this movie on DVD, and it’s very interesting, but I have to say, it turned me off a little(am discerning). Very restrictive, they couldn’t even talk together.

You should NEVER let a movie turn you off discernment–if it does, then it has served it’s purpose. With very few exceptions, movies do not glorify God or religious life. You should visit orders and then decide whether you want to be a religious sister. Plus, these are the way orders were 50 years ago, not today.

And I do question the source, as she appeared to live with another woman for the rest of her life after she left the convent—it makes you wonder what her true reason was for entering in the first place.

What’s Discernment?

Discernment is ascertaining whether God is calling you to, in this context, a religious vocation (note: we all go through a discernment as to our vocation in some manner- although most of us discern our vocation is marriage!)

I disagree with former poster’s remarks it doesn’t matter whether the ex-nun was openly/practicing gay-- the wikipedia article (linked to above) states it matter of factly, yet also says that the 2 women “remained Catholic” – if “remaining Catholic” means they were receiving the sacraments while openly living in an active homosexual relationship as the article suggests for 40 years, that is certainly cause for concern for their souls!

Also, whenever I find out the people portrayed in a movie actually turn out “badly” (as here, if the above is true), or if I know the actors themselves are leading openly sinful lives, the movie itself just loses a little lustre… you know, for example, if the leading man actor has left his wife & 3 kids for his co-starring teenaged starlet, well… I just won’t confirm that kind of conduct and boycott the movie entirely! In this decaying culture we’ve got to vote with our dollars!

I did like the movie when I first saw it years ago… Audrey Hepburn was a talented person

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