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 (1951-11-12) (age 64)
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]


However, Harling never used his law degree: skipping the bar exam, he instead moved to New York City to become an actor, auditioning for bit parts in plays and television commercials, and working as a ticket seller for Broadway shows.[3][4]

After the death of his younger sister, Susan, in 1985 due to diabetes, Harling wrote a short story and adapted it into a play, Steel Magnolias,[3][4][5][6][7] which was produced off-Broadway in 1987 to great acclaim and was subsequently translated into seventeen languages.[4]

Harling also wrote 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]

Harling went on to write more screenplays: Soapdish (1991), The First Wives Club (1996), and Laws of Attraction (2004); he also worked as an uncredited script doctor on a number of films. Harling also wrote and directed the sequel to Terms of Endearment titled The Evening Star (1996).[5][8][12]

In the spring of 2012, he served as writer and producer of the TV show GCB, which aired briefly on ABC-TV.[5][8][11] In the same year, it was reported that Harling was 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 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 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