Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias Information

Steel Magnolias is a 1989 American comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross that stars Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts.

The film is about the bond among a group of women from a parish in the Natchitoches, Louisiana, area. The movie is based on a 1987 play Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, which in turn dealt with the playwright's experience with the death of his sister.

The title suggests the main female characters can be both as delicate as magnolias, and as tough as steel.


Annelle Dupuy (Daryl Hannah), a recent beauty school graduate, is hired by Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) to work in her home-based beauty salon. M'Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field), a good friend of Truvy's, and her daughter, Shelby (Julia Roberts), arrive at Truvy's to prepare for Shelby's wedding, which is taking place later that day. Also arriving at the salon are Ouiser (pronounced "Weezer" or "Weeza") Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine), a grouchy, two-time widow (who claims that she is not crazy, she's just been in a very bad mood for 40 years), and Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), also a widow, who is cheerful and enjoys taking cracks at Ouiser whenever possible, but also loves Ouiser "more than her luggage". During an argument with her mother over whether or not she should bear a child, Shelby, who has type one diabetes, falls into a state of hypoglycemia, but she recovers quickly with some orange juice provided by her mother and the other women in the salon.

Also, upon Ouiser's arrival, Annelle is forced to reveal the fact that her husband, Bunkie, might be a dangerous criminal, as the police have been to her now many times. Truvy says she wishes Annelle had mentioned something before, but Annelle says she was too scared too, fearing she might not have gotten the job if Truvy had known that her husband was a drug dealer. Annelle also swears that her personal tragedy will never be able to interfere with her ability to do good hair. Shelby then agrees that Annelle will come to her wedding "and have some bleedin' armadillo groomscake", referencing the armadillo shaped cake which was baked by Shelby's fiance Jackson's Aunt Fern Thornton (Ann Wedgeworth). Annelle comes to the wedding, borrowing one of Shelby's dresses.

Several months pass, and Shelby announces to her family that she and her husband Jackson (Dylan McDermott) are expecting their first child. The family is thrilled, but M'Lynn is far too worried that Shelby's body may not be able to withstand childbirth to think anything positive about it. 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 chronic kidney condition, and that there is a very big difference. Ouiser then says that "this baby is not exactly great news", meaning Shelby could actually die in childbirth, because of her diabetes. 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. M'Lynn agrees, saying that nothing pleases Shelby more than proving her wrong. Shelby is successfully delivered of a baby boy, Jackson Jr. However, several months later Shelby begins showing signs of kidney failure and starts dialysis. M'Lynn offers to donate a kidney to her daughter and the transplant takes place the day after Jackson Jr's first birthday. Clairee and Ouiser agree to make sure that M'Lynn's husband Drum (Tom Skerritt) and their sons, Jonathan (Jonathan Ward) and Tommy (Knowl Johnson) have enough food until after the transplant. While shopping for food, Ouiser, having said she'd be better off when her body wears out, realizes that she shouldn't have said that in front of Shelby, and thinks of herself as a terrible person, which Clairee dismisses immediately, saying Ouiser isn't a terrible person, because she knows Ouiser would even give her dog, Rhett, a kidney if he needed one.

The surgery is initially successful, and Shelby seemingly resumes a normal life afterwards. Later, on Halloween afternoon, Ouiser, Clairee, Truvy and M'Lynn throw Annelle a big surprise wedding shower, "with a monster motif". Shelby is unavailable to attend, due to a conflicting shedule with her nursing job, but M'Lynn gives Annelle a present from Shelby in her stead. Later, that exact same night, as Shelby picks up Jack Jr. in her arms, she immediately sets him back down, telling him she needs to call his father. Her painful grimace and the need to call is the first indication of a problem since the surgery. Jackson arrives home to find pots on the stove boiling over and Jack Jr. crying hysterically. Jack Jr. directs his father towards the back porch, where Shelby is unconscious and with the telephone receiver in her hand.

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 remove life support from Shelby. At the funeral, after the other mourners have left, M'Lynn breaks down in hysterics in front of Clairee, Truvy, Annelle and Ouiser, stating that she was supposed to "go first", for which she was always ready. She also wonders if Jack Jr. will ever know just how wonderful his mother was, and she also wonders if he'll ever know what she went through just to bring him into the world, and that she wants to hit someone until they feel just as bad as she does, but soon, the other women (mostly Clairee) give support to M'Lynn through both humor and love. Clairee suggests M'Lynn hit Ouiser to try to get rid of her anger, angering Ouiser at first, but she and Clairee quickly make up. Clairee also says by not hitting Ouiser, that M'Lynn has also missed the chance of a lifetime, as she believes "half of Chinquapin Parish'd give their eye teeth to take a whack at Ouiser!".

Later, at the wake, M'Lynn begins to accept her daughter's death and focuses her energy on helping Jackson raise Jack Jr, as do Drum, Jonathan and Tommy. 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) even met in the first place. M'Lynn agrees, and assures Annelle that Shelby would love that, and say's she is "tickled pink", reminding her of her daughter's favorite color. Months later, on Easter morning, Annelle goes into labor during an Easter egg hunt, is rushed to the hospital and another life begins. Just prior to that, Jack Jr., after hearing a pretend story from Clairee, hits Ouiser, under the impression that, as Clairee described her in a story, she is an evil, horrible witch.


  • Sally Field as Mary Lynn "M'Lynn" Eatenton
  • Dolly Parton as Truvy Jones
  • Shirley MacLaine Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux
  • Daryl Hannah as Annelle Dupuy Desoto
  • Olympia Dukakis as Clairee Belcher
  • Julia Roberts as Shelby Eatenton Latcherie
  • Tom Skerritt as Drum Eatenton
  • Sam Shepard as Spud Jones
  • Dylan McDermott as Jackson Latcherie
  • Kevin J. O'Connor as Sammy Desoto
  • Bill McCutcheon as Owen Jenkins
  • Ann Wedgeworth as Aunt Fern
  • Knowl Johnson as Tommy Eatenton
  • Jonathan Ward as Jonathan Eatenton
  • Ronald Young as Drew Marmillion, Clairee's brother
  • Bibi Besch as Belle Marmillion, Drew's wife
  • Janine Turner as Nancy-Beth Marmillion, Drew and Belle's daughter; Clairee's niece
  • James Wlcek as Marshall Marmillion, Drew and Belle's son; Clairee's nephew
  • Tom Hodges as Louie Jones, Truvy and Spud's son
  • C. Houser as Jackson Latcherie, Jr. (1 year old)
  • Daniel Camp as Jackson Jatcherie, Jr. (3 years old)


As noted in the Special Features on the Steel Magnolias DVD, the story is based on the death of Robert Harling's younger sister, Susan Harling Robinson, a diabetic. As her best friend and closest sibling, Harling found it difficult to cope with her death. His friends advised him to write about his feelings as a coping method. It began as a short story and evolved into a full-length play due to the complexity of the relationships and emotions that existed within the characters.

Harling felt it important to include the way the characters utilized humor and lighthearted conversations to cope with the seriousness of the underlying situations, Harling wanted the audience to have a true experience of what his family endured during his sister's hospitalization. One of the ways he did this was by employing the nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who worked with his sister as characters in the movie portraying their real-life roles.

The story is set in a fictional Northwestern Louisiana parish, Chinquapin.

Stage play

Main article: Steel Magnolias (play)
The stage play was originally staged Off-Broadway in 1987, and then was produced on Broadway in 2005. All of the action of the play takes place solely on one set — Truvy's beauty salon, which is part of her house. There are only six characters (all female) who appear onstage; a disc jockey's voice is also heard (from a radio in the background) during the play. All the other characters who appear in the film version, such as the males in the ladies' lives, are only referred to in the play's dialogue.


The film was released by Tri-Star Pictures in the United States on November 15, 1989 and grossed more than $83.7 million at the box office. Robert Harling adapted his own play, which was heavily rewritten to incorporate many more characters. It was his first produced screenplay and he also appears in the film as the preacher.

The film starred Dolly Parton as Truvy Jones, Olympia Dukakis as Clairee Belcher, Shirley MacLaine as Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux, Sally Field as M'Lynn Eatenton, Julia Roberts as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie and Daryl Hannah as Annelle Dupuy-Desoto. Roberts received her first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.

The location for filming was Natchitoches, Louisiana. Historian Robert DeBlieux, a former mayor of Natchitoches, was the local advisor.

The sets and casting go far beyond the modest means of the original play to include male characters, ensembles and outdoor scenes. The sequence of the action was more tightly linked with major holidays in the film than in the play. Much dialogue was added and several lines in the play were cut or assigned to other characters than originally intended. In addition, Truvy is given only one son instead of two.


Steel Magnolias received mixed-to-positive reviews and has 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. An example of a least 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, and entered the U.S. box office at #4, with an opening weekend gross of $5,425,440, when it received a wider release two days later it had already grossed $15,643,935. The film stayed in the top 10 for 16 weeks and went onto gross $83,759,091 domestically with a further $12,145,000 in the foreign markets to give a worldwide gross of $95,904,091.

Julia Roberts was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar, but lost to Brenda Fricker in My Left Foot.


CBS commissioned a television pilot in 1990 in hopes of continuing the story as a weekly half-hour sitcom. The story picked up where the film left off and therefore Shelby was not included in the show. The cast featured Cindy Williams as M'Lynn, Sally Kirkland as Truvy, Elaine Stritch as Ouiser, Polly Bergen as Clairee and Sheila McCarthy as Annelle. CBS declined to pick up the series for the 1990 fall season, although the pilot was broadcast on August 17, 1990.

Home media

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.


See Steel Magnolias (2012 film) for more information On October 10, 2011, Lifetime Television Network announced a remake of the film is planned featuring black actors in the lead roles. Kenny Leon, the director of the 2008 ABC movie A Raisin in the Sun, directed this version. The film was set in Louisiana and starred Queen Latifah as M'Lynn, Jill Scott as Truvy, Alfre Woodard as Ouiser, Phylicia Rash?d as Clairee, Adepero Oduye as Annelle, and Condola Rash?d as Shelby.

See also

  • List of films featuring diabetes

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Steel_Magnolias" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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