Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Herbert Ross|
|Produced by||Ray Stark
|Written by||Robert Harling|
Kevin J. O'Connor
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
Steel Magnolias is a 1989 American comedy-drama directed by Herbert Ross. It is the film adaptation of Robert Harling's 1987 play of the same name. The play and film are about the bond a group of different women share in a small-town southern community, and how they cope with the death of one of their own.
The story is based on Robert Harling's real life and the death of his sister Susan Harling Robinson in 1985 due to early diabetes. He changed his sister's name in the story from Susan, to Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie.
Annelle Dupuy (Daryl Hannah), a reserved and ditzy beauty school graduate, is hired by Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) to work in her home-based beauty salon in northwestern Louisiana. At the same time in another part of the neighbourhood, M'Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) and her daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts), are preparing for Shelby's wedding day, which is taking place later that day. They arrive, along with Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), the cheerful widow of the late former mayor, to have their hair done. Suddenly, Shelby, who has type one diabetes, falls into a hypoglycemic state but recovers quickly with the help of her mother's persistence and quick thinking. M'Lynn explains that Shelby was recently informed by doctors that she isn't able to have children.
Later that afternoon, short-tempered and sarcastic Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) arrives in the salon and questions Annelle about where she has moved from, forcing Annelle to reveal that her husband is a dangerous criminal on the run from the police. Moved by Annelle's emotional confession, Shelby invites her to the wedding, where Annelle meets Sammy (Kevin J. O'Connor) who is tending bar.
Several months pass and Shelby returns to town to celebrate Christmas. During the festivities, she announces that she and her husband Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) are expecting their first child. Shelby's father Drum (Tom Skerritt) is thrilled, but M'Lynn is too worried to share in the joy. Even when Shelby confesses that she hopes the arrival of a baby might make her marriage a little easier, M'Lynn is unable to rejoice. Truvy, Annelle, and Clairee had originally thought that Shelby couldn't have children, but on the night of the big announcement, M'Lynn clarified for them that the doctors said Shelby shouldn't have children because of her diabetes, and that there is a very big difference. It becomes clear that Shelby could actually die in childbirth because of her diabetes taking a toll. Unable to give her any words of wisdom, Truvy suggests they focus on the joy of the situation: Jackson and Shelby's first child, as well as Drum and M'Lynn's first grandchild, as well as their sons, Jonathan and Tommy's first nephew. M'Lynn agrees, saying that nothing pleases Shelby more than proving her wrong.
Shelby successfully delivers a baby boy, Jackson Jr., but begins showing signs of kidney failure and starts dialysis around the time Jackson Jr turns one. M'Lynn successfully donates a kidney and Shelby seemingly resumes a normal life. Clairee and Ouiser offer to make sure that M'Lynn's husband, Drum, and their sons, Jonathan (Jonathan Ward) and Tommy (Knowl Johnson), have enough food to last until M'Lynn returns home after the transplant. Later, on Halloween, Ouiser, Clairee, Truvy, and M'Lynn throw Annelle a surprise wedding shower. Shelby is unavailable to attend, due to a conflicting schedule with her nursing job, and is later found unconscious on the porch of her house.
Shelby is rushed to the hospital, where it's determined that her body rejected the new kidney, sending her into a coma. The doctors inform the family that Shelby is likely to remain comatose indefinitely, and her family and husband jointly decide to take her off life support. At the funeral, after the other mourners have left, M'Lynn breaks down in hysterics in front of Ouiser, Clairee, Truvy, and Annelle but is comforted by the other women.
Later, at the wake, M'Lynn begins to accept her daughter's death and focuses her energy on helping Jackson raise Jackson Jr. Annelle, who is now married and pregnant, asks M'Lynn if she could name her own baby after Shelby, since Shelby was the reason Annelle and her husband, Sammy (Kevin J. O'Connor), met. M'Lynn agrees, and assures Annelle that Shelby would love it. Months later, on Easter morning, Annelle goes into labor during an Easter egg hunt, is rushed to the hospital by Truvy and her husband Spud (Sam Shepard), and another life begins.
|Sally Field||Mary Lynn "M'Lynn" Eatenton||Jonathan, Tommy, and Shelby's mother; Drum's wife, Jackson's mother-in-law and Jack Jr's maternal grandmother|
|Dolly Parton||Truvy Jones||Beautician; Spud's wife, and Louie's mother|
|Shirley MacLaine||Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux||Neighborhood friend/"curmudgeon"|
|Daryl Hannah||Annelle Dupuy-Desoto||Newcomer; Beautician, wife of Sammy|
|Olympia Dukakis||Clairee Belcher||Neighbor friend; former first lady, sister of Drew Marmillion, sister-in-law of Belle Marmillion, and aunt of Marshall and Nancy Beth Marmillion.|
|Julia Roberts||Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie||Drum and M'Lynn's daughter, Jonathan and Tommy's sister, Jackson's wife, and Jack Jr's mother.|
|Tom Skerritt||Thomas Drummond "Drum" Eatenton||M'Lynn's husband, Shelby, Jonathan & Tommy's father, Jackson's father-in-law, and Jack Jr's maternal grandfather.|
|Sam Shepard||Spud Jones||Truvy's husband and Louie's father.|
|Dylan McDermott||Jackson Latcherie||Shelby's husband, Jack Jr.'s father, Drum and M'Lynn's son-in-law, and Jonathan and Tommy's brother-in-law.|
|Kevin J. O'Connor||Sammy Desoto||Annelle's Husband|
|Bill McCutcheon||Owen Jenkins||Ouiser's former boyfriend|
|Ann Wedgeworth||Aunt Fern Thornton||Jackson's aunt|
|Knowl Johnson||Tommy Eatenton||Drum and M'Lynn's son, Jonathan and Shelby's brother, Jackson's brother-in-law and Jack Jr's maternal uncle.|
|Jonathan Ward||Jonathan Eatenton||Drum and M'Lynn's son, Tommy and Shelby's brother, Jackson's brother-in-law and Jack Jr's maternal uncle.|
|Ronald Young||Drew Marmillion||Clairee's brother, husband to Belle, and father of Marshall and Nancy Beth|
|Bibi Besch||Belle Marmillion||Drew's wife, mother of Marshall and Nancy Beth, and Clairee's sister-in-law|
|Janine Turner||Nancy-Beth Marmillion||Drew and Belle's daughter; Clairee's niece, Marshall's sister|
|James Wlcek||Marshall Marmillion||Drew and Belle's son; Clairee's nephew, and Nancy Beth's brother|
|Tom Hodges||Louie Jones||Truvy and Spud's son|
|C. Houser||Jackson Latcherie, Jr. (1 year old)||Jackson and Shelby's son, Drum and M'Lynn's maternal grandson, and Jonathan and Tommy's maternal nephew.|
|Daniel Camp||Jackson Latcherie, Jr. (3 years old)||Jackson and Shelby's son, Drum and M'Lynn's maternal grandson, and Jonathan and Tommy's maternal nephew.|
The original play described the experience of the family and friends of the play author Harling following the 1985 death of his sister from diabetic complications after the birth of his namesake nephew and failure of a family member donated kidney. A writer friend continuously encouraged him to write it down in order to come to terms with the experience. He did but originally as a short story for his nephew the latter to get an understanding of the deceased mother. It eventually evolved in ten days to the play.
Released by Tri-Star Pictures in the United States on November 15, 1989 and grossed more than $83.7 million at the box office. Harling's first produced screenplay, he adapted the original film script which was then heavily rewritten beyond the on-stage one set scenario of the stage production: the scenes increased and the sequence was more tightly linked with major holidays than the play; the increased characters beyond the all original female play cast caused dialogue changes between on-screen characters (among them, Harling playing the preacher and Truvy has one son instead of two). Natchitoches, Louisiana served as both the 1989 film location and scenario location with historian Robert DeBlieux, a former Natchitoches mayor, as the local advisor.
It received mixed-to-positive reviews and has 65% on Rotten Tomatoes." An example of a less enthusiastic critic was Hal Hinson of The Washington Post, who said that it felt "more Hollywood than the South." An example of a more enthusiastic critic was Roger Ebert, who said that the film was "willing to sacrifice its over-all impact for individual moments of humor, and while that leaves us without much to take home, you've got to hand it to them: The moments work."
The movie received a limited release on November 15, 1989: entered the U.S. box office at #4 with an opening weekend gross of $5,425,440; by the time of wider release two days later it grossed $15,643,935; stayed in the top 10 for 16 weeks, gross $83,759,091 domestically with a further $12,145,000 with foreign markets giving a worldwide gross of $95,904,091.
The film was released on VHS on June 19, 1990 and on DVD July 25, 2000, allowing the film to gross a further $40 million. The movie's overall gross was $135,904,091. The film was released on Blu-ray through the boutique label Twilight Time, on September 11, 2012.
Awards and nominations
|1990||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Julia Roberts||Nominated|
|1990||American Comedy Awards||Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Olympia Dukakis||Nominated|
|1990||American Comedy Awards||Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Shirley MacLaine||Nominated|
|1990||Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Shirley MacLaine||Nominated|
|1990||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama||Sally Field||Nominated|
|1990||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Julia Roberts||Won|
|1990||People's Choice Awards||Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture||Steel Magnolias||Won|
|1991||BAFTA Awards||Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Shirley MacLaine||Nominated|
Adaptation - television
CBS broadcast on August 17, 1990 a half hour television pilot sitcom sans Shelby's character as the story line was post death. The cast: Cindy Williams as M'Lynn, Sally Kirkland as Truvy, Elaine Stritch as Ouiser, Polly Bergen as Clairee and Sheila McCarthy as Annelle. CBS cancelled further broadcast.
Lifetime Television Network announced (October 10, 2011) a planned remake under the direction of Kenny Leon, director of the ABC movie A Raisin in the Sun (2008), set in Louisiana featuring lead role black actors: Queen Latifah (M'Lynn), Jill Scott (Truvy), Alfre Woodard (Ouiser), Phylicia Rashād (Clairee), Adepero Oduye (Annelle) and Condola Rashād (Shelby). The New York Times had mixed reactions: applauded it on some points and on others as either schmaltz or less attentive than the 1989 film.
- Steel Magnolias on IMDb
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- People Archives: Vol. 29, No. 3 (January 25, 1988), "Robert Harling, Author of a Hit Comedy Based on a Family Tragedy" by Kim Hubbard.
- "What's Up, Robert Harling? Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Steel Magnolias, Kristin Chenoweth in a Soapdish Musical & More." Interviews by Kathy Henderson November 28, 2012
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- "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- Hilton, Perez. "Steel Magnolias To Be Remade With All-Black Cast". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
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- Hale, Mike (October 5, 2012). "‘Steel Magnolias' on Lifetime, With Queen Latifah". The New York Times.
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