Robert Harling (writer)

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This article is about the American writer. For the UK typographer and writer (1910-2008), see Robert Harling (typographer). For the 15th-century knight, see Robert Harling.
Robert M. Harling III
Born November 12, 1951
Dothan, Alabama
Years active 1989–present

Robert M. Harling III (born November 12, 1951) is an American writer, producer and film director.


Early life[edit]

He was born in 1951 in Dothan, Alabama, one of three children of Robert M. Harling, Jr., and Margaret Jones Harling (1923-2013).[1][2][3][4] He graduated from Northwestern State University in his hometown and obtained a law degree from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana.[3][4][5] While in law school, he sang in a band which performed in New Orleans on weekends.[4]


He moved to New York City in 1978 and worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and sold tickets on Broadway to support himself.[3][4] He auditioned for acting jobs and shot television commercials about flashlights.[3][4]

After the death of his younger sister, Susan, due to diabetes, he wrote a short story and adapted it into a play, Steel Magnolias, which is still played worldwide to this day.[3][4][5][6][7] It has been translated in seventeen languages, including Japanese, Chinese, French, Swedish, Spanish, Italian.[4] Shortly after, he went on to adapt the screenplay for the film version of the play that was produced in 1989 starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts.[8][9][10][11] He played a small role in the film as a minister.[8]

He went on to write more screenplays, Soapdish (1991), The First Wives Club (1996), and Laws of Attraction (2004), as well as an uncredited script doctor on a number of films. More recently he served as writer and producer of the TV show GCB which ran briefly on ABC-TV.[5][8][11] He also wrote and directed the sequel to Terms of Endearment titled The Evening Star (1996).[5][8][12]

He is currently adapting Soapdish into a musical.[5][13]

Personal life[edit]

He is Presbyterian[13] He owns the Oaklawn Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana.[14][15]






  1. ^ Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home, Obituary: Margaret Jones Harling, Margaret Jones Harling Obituary
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e Kim Hubbard, Robert Harling, Author of a Hit Comedy Based on a Family Tragedy, People, Vol. 29, No. 3, January 25, 1988
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Julia Reed, The Interview: Robert Harling, Garden & Gun, December 2012 – January 2013
  5. ^ a b c d e Brooks Barnes, Sweet Tea and Tart Women, The New York Times, February 29, 2012
  6. ^ Anne McCracken, Mary Semel, A broken heart still beats: after your child dies, Hazelden Publishing, 2000, p. 87 [2]
  7. ^ Jeremy Kinser, Steel Magnolias Back In Bloom, The Advocate, October 25, 2012
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p imdb
  9. ^ Karen Hollinger, In the company of women: contemporary female friendship films, Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p. 75 [3]
  10. ^ Tara McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003, p. 159 [4]
  11. ^ a b Tanner Transky, Robert Harling: The Man Who Loves Women, Entertainment Weekly, April 13, 2012
  12. ^ Peter C. Rollins, The Columbia companion to American history on film, New York City: Columbia University Press, 2007 p. 494 [5]
  13. ^ a b Lisa Rosen, Robert Harling, Darren Star breathe life into 'GCB', The Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2012
  14. ^ Natchitoches, Arcadia Publishing, 2003, p. 44
  15. ^ National Park Service: Oaklawn Plantation