Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Herbert Ross|
|Produced by||Ray Stark|
|Screenplay by||Robert Harling|
|Based on||Steel Magnolias|
by Robert Harling
|Music by||Georges Delerue|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Edited by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$96.8 million|
Steel Magnolias is a 1989 American comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It is a film adaptation of Robert Harling's 1987 play of the same name. The play and film are about the bond a group of 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 experience of the death of his sister, Susan Harling Robinson, in 1985 due to complications from Type 1 diabetes. He changed his sister's name in the story from Susan to Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie.
Meanwhile, M'Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) and her daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts), busily prepare for Shelby's wedding that is being held later that day. They, and Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), the former mayor's cheerful widow, arrive at Truvy's to have their hair done. While there, Shelby, who has type 1 diabetes, suffers a hypoglycemic attack, but recovers quickly with the women's help. M'Lynn reveals that due to Shelby's medical condition, her doctor advises against her having children. Shelby had considered ending her engagement to her fiancé, Jackson (Dylan McDermott), so he would not be deprived of children.
Grouchy and sarcastic Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) arrives at the salon and immediately begins interrogating Annelle about her background. Annelle tearfully reveals that her no-good husband, Bunkie, is evading the police and has taken all their money and the car. Annelle further admits she is unsure her marriage is legal. Shelby, sympathetic, invites Annelle to the wedding reception where she meets bartender Sammy DeSoto. Soon after, Annelle, following a short-lived wild streak, becomes deeply religious, annoying everyone, including Sammy.
During the Christmas holidays, Shelby announces she is pregnant. Everyone is thrilled except for M’Lynn, knowing it is too risky. Truvy encourages M'Lynn to instead focus on the joy a new baby brings.
Shelby has a baby boy, Jackson Jr., but soon develops kidney failure requiring regular dialysis. Around Jackson Jr.'s first birthday, Shelby undergoes a successful transplant with M'Lynn's donated kidney. Shelby recovers but four months later, Jackson arrives home to find her unconscious. Shelby is comatose, having contracted an infection in her central nervous system due to the suppressive therapy that keeps her body from rejecting the kidney. After doctors determine Shelby's condition is irreversible, the family jointly decide to remove her life support.
After the funeral, M'Lynn breaks down but the other women comfort her. M'Lynn gradually accepts her daughter's decision to have risked her life in return for a few special years of motherhood and decides to focus her energy on helping Jackson raising Jack Jr. Annelle, now married to Sammy and pregnant, tells M'Lynn she wants to name her own baby after Shelby, as she was the reason she and Sammy met. M'Lynn approves, stating, "Life goes on."
At the town Easter Egg Hunt, Annelle goes into labor and is rushed to the hospital and another life begins.
|Sally Field||M'Lynn Eatenton||Social Worker; Wife to Drum Eatenton; Mother to Shelby, Jonathan and Tommy; Jackson's mother-in-law; Jack Jr.'s maternal grandmother|
|Dolly Parton||Truvy Jones||Beautician; Wife to Spud Jones; Mother to Louie; town gossip|
|Shirley MacLaine||Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux||Clairee Belcher's best friend and confidant; Eatenton Family's next-door neighbor; town curmudgeon, and Drum Eatenton's nemesis|
|Daryl Hannah||Annelle Dupuy-DeSoto||Newcomer to town; apprentice beautician hired by Truvy Jones; first married to Bunkie Dupuy; later marries Sammy DeSoto|
|Olympia Dukakis||Clairee Belcher||Former town first lady; sister to Drew Marmillion, sister-in-law to Belle Marmillion; aunt to Marshall and Nancy Beth Marmillion; best friend and confidant of Ouiser Boudreaux; friend of the Eatentons and Joneses|
|Julia Roberts||Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie||Eldest child and only daughter of Drum and M'Lynn Eatenton; sister to Jonathan and Tommy; marries Jackson Latcherie and gives birth to Jack Latcherie Jr.; suffers from type one diabetes|
|Tom Skerritt||Drum Eatenton||Husband of M'Lynn Eatenton, Father to Shelby, Jonathan and Tommy; Jackson Latcherie's father-in-law; Jack Jr.'s maternal grandfather|
|Sam Shepard||Spud Jones||Sporadically employed laborer; Truvy Jones's husband and Louie's father|
|Dylan McDermott||Jackson Latcherie||Lawyer; Shelby Eatenton'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 Dupuy's eventual husband, who met her at Shelby and Jackson's wedding reception|
|Bill McCutcheon||Owen Jenkins||Ouiser Boudreaux's former boyfriend who recently returned to town|
|Ann Wedgeworth||Fern Thornton||Jackson Latcherie's aunt; her specialty is baking animal-shaped cakes|
|Knowl Johnson||Tommy Eatenton||Drum and M'Lynn Eatenton's first-born son and middle child; Shelby and Jonathan's brother; Jackson's brother-in-law; Jack Jr.'s maternal uncle|
|Jonathan Ward||Jonathan Eatenton||Drum and M'Lynn Eatenton's second-born son and youngest child; Shelby and Tommy's brother; Jackson's brother-in-law; Jack Jr.'s maternal uncle|
|Ronald Young||Drew Marmillion||Clairee Belcher's brother; husband to Belle Marmillion; Father to Marshall and Nancy Beth|
|Bibi Besch||Belle Marmillion||Drew Marmillion's wife; Mother to Marshall and Nancy Beth; Clairee Belcher's sister-in-law|
|Janine Turner||Nancy-Beth Marmillion||Drew and Belle Marmillion's daughter; Marshall's sister; Clairee Belcher's niece; town's dethroned "Miss Merry Christmas"|
|James Wlcek||Marshall Marmillion||Drew and Belle Marmillion's son; Nancy Beth's brother; Clairee Belcher's nephew; announces to his parents he is gay|
|Tom Hodges||Louie Jones||Truvy and Spud Jones's rebellious son|
|C. Houser||Jackson Latcherie Jr. (1 year old)||Jackson and Shelby Latcherie's son; Drum and M'Lynn Eatenton's grandson; Jonathan and Tommy Eatenton's nephew|
|Daniel Camp||Jackson Latcherie Jr. (3 years old)|
|Norman Fletcher||Mr. Latcherie Sr||Husband of Mrs. Latcherie Sr, father of Jackson Latcherie Sr, father-in-law of Shelby, and paternal grandfather of Jack Jr.|
The original play dramatized experiences of the family and friends of the play's author following the 1985 death of his sister from diabetic complications after the birth of his namesake nephew and the failure of a family member's 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 then later to get an understanding of the deceased mother. It evolved in ten days into the play.
Released by TriStar Pictures in the United States on November 15, 1989, it 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 (which had taken place entirely in Truvy's beauty salon) 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 original, all-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. The house where much of the film was shot is now a six-suite B&B, available for rent.
It received generally positive reviews from critics and has a score of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes from 31 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Steel Magnolias has jokes and characters to spare, which makes it more dangerous (and effective) when it goes for the full melodrama by the end." An example of a less enthusiastic critic was Hal Hinson of The Washington Post, who said that it felt, "more Hollywood than the South." More enthusiastic 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 film received a score of 56 based 13 critics on Metacritic with "mixed or average reviews".
The movie received a limited release on November 15, 1989: entered the U.S. box office at No. 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–it has since gone out of print. A 30th anniversary Blu-ray was released on May 28, 2019.
Awards and nominations
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|1989||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Julia Roberts||Nominated|
|1989||Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Won|
|Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama||Sally Field||Nominated|
|1990||British Academy Film Awards||Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Shirley MacLaine||Nominated|
|1990||Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|1990||American Comedy Awards||Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1990||Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Olympia Dukakis||Nominated|
|1990||People's Choice Awards||Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture||Steel Magnolias||Won|
Failed TV sequel pilot
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 included Cindy Williams as M'Lynn, Sally Kirkland as Truvy, Elaine Stritch as Ouiser, Polly Bergen as Clairee and Sheila McCarthy as Annelle.
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 with black actors in the lead roles: 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.
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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
- Lechuguilla (November 22, 1989). "Steel Magnolias (1989)". IMDb.
- "Steel Magnolias". Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
- Horbelt, Stephan (February 22, 2019). "The Perfect Gaycation: A Weekend at the 'Steel Magnolias' House in Louisiana, Now a B&B". Hornet. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
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- Hunt, Dennis (August 2, 1990). "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Internal Affairs' Has Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
- "Steel Magnolias (1989) - Financial Information". the-numbers.com. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- Hilton, Perez. "Steel Magnolias To Be Remade With All-Black Cast". Retrieved October 12, 2011.
- "Queen Latifah, Jill Scott for New Take on 'Steel Magnolias'". Smooth Jazz Network. May 7, 2012. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
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- Hale, Mike (October 5, 2012). "'Steel Magnolias' on Lifetime, With Queen Latifah". The New York Times.
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