Hollywood and Religious Science
The Famous Who Found Their Way through Science of Mind
By Jeannette Quinn Bisbee
Ernest Holmes and Science of Mind has been a spiritual pathway for millions of people around the world. But some very famous people—artists of every type—have been captivated by the teachings and dynamic, spiritually-positive philosophy of Science of Mind. Robert Stack, Emmy-Award winning actor in the TV series, The Untouchables, and later starring in the popular series, Unsolved Mysteries was raised by a mother who was a dedicated student of Ernest Holmes; she raised Robert Stack by Religious Science principles from the start. Stack, in a Science of Mind magazine article in March of 1987, commented on why he thinks actors, singers, artists, and performers of all kinds gravitate to Science of Mind. “The Science of Mind and performance are in many ways similar….Because acting is in a sense a projection of the truth of living….it’s allowing something to come alive purely out of mental states….That is why the Science of Mind is so popular with performers. It does the job without imposing mysteries, blinders, or dogma; it uses the intelligent you.”
Who were some of the famous that were taught by Ernest Holmes or who found their way through the doors of Religious Science churches? Here are the names of just a few: Esther Williams, swimming and movie star in the 1940’s and 1950’s; Fernando Lamas, film actor and director; Mickey Rooney, the #1 box office attraction in 1939, who appeared in over 100 films; Rhonda Fleming , gorgeous redhead who appeared in over 45 films; Mary Pickford, the most famous silent movie star of all time; Cecil B. DeMille, director of such movie classics as Sunset Boulevard and The Ten Commandments; Robert Young, TV star of Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. and over 100 films; Robert Stack, actor and TV star; Robert Cummings, who starred in two Alfred Hitchcock movies in the 1940’s; Jack LaLanne, TV star and early health and fitness advocate; Donna Douglas, star of Beverly Hillbillies; famed reporter and screenwriter, Adela Rogers St. Johns; and Peggy Lee, jazz singer and Academy-Award nominated actress. Each of these people had a connection to Religious Science as they navigated the pathway through fame and publicity. A few of them really felt that Ernest Holmes and Religious Science were the foundation of their success and their happiness in daily life.
Rhonda Fleming, the gorgeous red-headed actress that lit up Technicolor screens in films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and co-starred with Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court credited Ernest Holmes with helping her to hold on to her happiness and even her sanity when she was suddenly vaulted into fame as a teenager. In the August 1987 issue of Science of Mind magazine, Fleming talks about attending Sunday lectures with her mother to hear Ernest Holmes speak. “I’ll never forget that great outpouring of love in the Wilshire-Ebell auditorium and the freedom we all felt in expressing our laughter, tears, joy, and applause. These responses in a ‘congregation’ were just about unheard of in those days. [1940’s] Yes, Ernest Holmes was clearly an instrument of the Lord and a warm friend who counseled with good advice—and shared my love of poetry and music.”
Fleming was honored to appear at the Centennial Celebration for Ernest Holmes at Founder’s Church in 1987, where she sang the classic, “Let There be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me,” and read aloud a poem that Ernest Holmes had once sent her. A special Hollywood moment, which was personally witnessed by two women we interviewed earlier in the year, was a quiet wedding between two Hollywood stars. Carol Hatch, long-time assistant to Rev. William Hornaday of Founders Church, and famed radio actress, Barbara Fuller, lifetime student of Science of Mind―these two women were tapped to “stand up” for Fernando Lamas and Esther Williams at the intimate wedding of the two stars on December 31st, 1969.
Barbara Fuller said, “It was a secret ceremony that they didn’t want leaked to the press, so the Chapel was completely closed. It was just Dr. Bill [Reverend Hornaday], Carol, who stood up for Esther, myself, standing as a witness for Fernando, and Carol’s husband, who played the organ. In those days it seemed a little naughty, but Fernando had brought champagne and silver goblets and we all celebrated with a toast in the chapel. Fernando was so funny. In the movies he often played the playboy Latin-lover, but he was so amusing. He kept cracking jokes before and after the ceremony; my stomach actually hurt I laughed so hard.”
Carol Hatch added her memories, “Esther carried a small bouquet of white daisies; she got nervous and dropped them in the ceremony. Dr. Bill quoted from Kahil Gibran in his ceremony—the famous lines about, ‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love….’ Esther and her mama found Ernest Holmes first and were students of his. Eventually, Fernando became a student of Science of Mind. Most people don’t know this, but he even became a practitioner. He would meet with Dr. Bill for private treatment sessions, and, sometimes Fernando would pray during the session. Dr. Bill’s office was designed to be soundproof, but Fernando prayed so loudly—you could hear his voice vibrating out in the hallway. Their wedding was a special moment that I’ve never forgotten.”
Carol and Barbara both remember Mickey Rooney’s love of Science of Mind and Founder’s Church. Barbara said, “Mickey had come to love Dr. Bill so much; he took some classes and had treatments with Dr. Bill. He wanted to be a real part of Founder’s Church, so he volunteered to usher one Sunday and take the collection. But it just wouldn’t work. People so wanted to say, ‘Hi’ or get his autograph that the collection was delayed by about a half hour and held up both services. So, that was only time he got to give back to what he was so passionate about.” Carol also remembered about Mickey, “At that time, we had a thing called ‘Dial-A-Prayer’—wherever you were 24 hours a day, you could call a special number, and you would hear a different prayer for each day that Dr. Bill recorded. We would load up this reel-to-reel tape, and the prayer was on a continuous loop, and you would hear Dr. Bill pray. Well, Mickey Rooney called virtually every day—no matter where he was in the world, and he would rely on that daily prayer to start his day.”
Peggy Lee had the longest and, perhaps, most vibrant association with Ernest Holmes. Peggy Lee even mentioned Ernest in her autobiography, Miss Peggy Lee: An Autobiography. In an article in the May 1987 issue of Science of Mind magazine, Lee commented, “Ernest Holmes was the greatest spiritual influence in my experience of anyone I ever met. His teaching reached into every corner of my life.” Peggy Lee found Ernest Holmes during one of the darkest periods of her life. She had become famous singing with Benny Goodman, then married famed jazz guitarist, Dave Barbour, and retired at 23 (!) to stay home and have kids. Depressed and lonely, she left the children with a babysitter, a woman who was a student of Ernest Holmes—that woman urged Peggy to attend one of Ernest’s lectures at the Institute. Lee did and she was immediately hooked. She attended Sunday services, lectures, read his books—eager to learn more about Science of Mind. Finally, in 1945, she met Ernest personally. She had been tapped to replace a famous radio-host in a live broadcast in New York. She flew out from Los Angeles, but upon arrival she became very ill, lost her voice, and doctors pronounced her unfit to go on the air the next day. In 1945 long distance phone calls were still a very special and expensive proposition, but she reached out to Ernest by phone and he immediately began ‘working’ for her—that was the phrase Ernest used when doing spiritual mind treatments. He ‘worked’ for you. “By air time, I was fine,” Peggy says, “my first experience of spiritual mind healing. When I got back from the coast I went to see him at once. From then on Ernest and Hazel adopted me as one of the daughters they didn’t have.”
Lee talked with Ernest on the phone daily, Hazel occasionally, and even began to do treatments for others herself. Holmes affirmed for Peggy Lee that everyone is a practitioner—whether they know it or not. She was to use her skills as a practitioner at a critical moment in her life.
In a June 1954 article titled, “This Thing Called Love”, in Science of Mind magazine, Peggy Lee speaks of how she used treatment for healing in her family’s life. Lee had just given a sold-out concert at Hollywood Bowl to 15,000 adoring fans—a moment that left her feeling absolutely lifted by the presence of Love and Oneness she had felt during the performance. Her joy was short-lived, however, when she came offstage to be met by worried friends and a physician; they told her that her brother, who had driven out from Chicago with his wife and children for her concert, had been gravely injured in a car accident. News had been kept from her, so that she could complete her performance. “We couldn’t tell you before, Peggy,” they said. “We called Ernest Holmes for the help we knew you’d want for him to have. But we just couldn’t tell you.” Peggy rushed to her brother’s side and learned that doctors believed he would be permanently scarred by the deep cuts on his face, and given the broken bones and gashes all over his body—they suspected serious internal injuries as well. Lee immediately began doing spiritual mind treatment for her brother. “The doctor came back shaking his head. ‘There are no internal injuries.’ Next day despite his wired jaw, my brother began taking nourishment. In a few weeks he was out of the hospital without so much as a scar or a blemish. But over and beyond the physical healing is the fact that my brother is now searching in earnest and now seeking to understand the principle of Science of Mind….”
Science of Mind principle works for all. Spiritual principle and spiritual practice know no famous or common, no big name versus small name. Science of Mind is about Oneness of All and the knowing that All is Possible in God. As Robert Stack, raised in Science of Mind principle from his earliest days, said when he quoted in his interview, Ernest Holmes, “There is no reason why you can’t have it all….Why go to the Infinite Source with a teaspoon when you could just as easily use a dipper or a pail?”
Some of these people achieved fame because they chose to use a pail….But each one of us is demonstrating and manifesting our own unique gifts as we go to that same Infinite Source!
Jeannette Quinn Bisbee R.Sc.P has been published in Science of Mind magazine, and was an Insight Speaker at the 2013 Asilomar Convention. Her passion is the Archives, and she contributes this blog twice monthly highlighting for readers around the world the wonderful projects and items available in the Science of Mind Archives. She is currently involved in a book project based on material from the Archives and Science of Mind magazine.