Steel Magnolias
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHerbert Ross
Screenplay byRobert Harling
Based onSteel Magnolias
by Robert Harling
Produced byRay Stark
Andrew Stone
Victoria White
CinematographyJohn A. Alonzo
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Music byGeorges Delerue
Distributed byTri-Star Pictures
Release date
  • November 15, 1989 (1989-11-15)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$96.8 million[3]

Steel Magnolias is a 1989 American comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross and starring Academy Award winners Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, and Olympia Dukakis with Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts.[4] The film is a film adaptation of Robert Harling's 1987 play of the same name 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 supporting cast features Tom Skerritt, Dylan McDermott, Sam Shepard and Kevin J. O'Connor.

Robert Harling based the story in part on his sister, Susan Harling Robinson. She died in 1985 of complications from Type 1 diabetes. In the film, Julia Roberts plays Shelby, the character based on Susan.[5]


Annelle Dupuy (Daryl Hannah), a shy beauty school graduate, moves to Chinquapin Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) hires her to work in her home-based beauty salon.

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. M'Lynn's husband Drum Eatenton (Tom Skerritt) first uses a gun to get rid of the birds in the trees so they don't ruin Shelby's reception. M'Lynn hides the gun when Drum goes to the restroom, so he ends up using a few arrows and a bow with firecrackers attached to them to get rid of the birds. Along with Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis)—the former mayor's cheerful widow—they 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 considered ending her engagement to her fiancé, Jackson, 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, her clothes and jewelry, 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 (Kevin J. O'Conner). At the Christmas festival later that year, Annelle, following a short-lived wild streak, becomes deeply religious, annoying everyone, including Sammy. And Shelby finds out that Clairee bought the radio station KKPD.

During the Christmas holidays, Shelby announces she is pregnant. Everyone is thrilled except M’Lynn, who knows the risks. Truvy encourages M'Lynn to instead focus on the joy a new baby brings.

Shelby has a baby boy and names him Jackson Latcherie 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 from life support and her husband Jackson (Dylan McDermott) is seen signing the papers removing Shelby from life support. Shortly after Shelby's death, M'Lynn leaves the hospital and goes to Jackson's aunt Fern's house to pick up her grandson.

After the funeral, Jackson is seen walking to the family car with his parents beside him and Shelby's brothers Tommy (Knowl Johnson) and Johnathan (Johnathan Ward) are seen walking to their car. Shortly after that, M'Lynn starts breaking 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 with raising her grandson. Annelle who married Sammy and is now pregnant, tells M'Lynn she wants to name her own baby after Shelby, even if the baby turns out to be a boy as she was the reason Annelle and Sammy met. M'Lynn approves, stating, "Life goes on."

At the town's Easter egg hunt, Annelle goes into labor and is rushed to the hospital by Truvy and her husband Spud in their truck followed by Sammy in an Easter Bunny costume and Truvy and Spud's son Louie on Louie's motorcycle and another life begins.


Actor Character Character description
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 Glamour Technician; wife to Spud Jones; mother to Louie; town gossip
Shirley MacLaine Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux Clairee Belcher's best friend and confidante; Eatenton family's next-door neighbor; town grouch; 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 NancyBeth; 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; paternal grandfather of Jack Jr.


The original play dramatized experiences of the family and friends of the playwright's 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.[6][7]


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 plays the preacher and Truvy has one son instead of two). Natchitoches, Louisiana served as both the 1989 film location and scenario location[8] with historian Robert DeBlieux, a former Natchitoches mayor, as the local advisor.[9] The house where much of the film was shot is now a six-suite B&B, available for rent.[10] The church used for a wedding scene is St Augustine Catholic Church in Natchez.


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 67% of 36 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's consensus reads: "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."[11] An example of a less enthusiastic critic was Hal Hinson of The Washington Post, who said that it felt "more Hollywood than the South."[12] 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".[13][14] The film received a score of 56 based 13 critics on Metacritic with "mixed or average reviews".[15]

The movie received a limited release on November 15, 1989: it 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, grossed $83,759,091 domestically with a further $12,145,000 with foreign markets, giving a worldwide gross of $95,904,091.[16]

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.[17][18] 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.

Other versions

Lifetime version

Main article: Steel Magnolias (2012 film)

Lifetime Television Network presented a remake directed by Kenny Leon, who had directed an ABC remake of A Raisin in the Sun (2008), set in Louisiana[19] 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).[20][21] A review in The New York Times was mixed.[22]

Pilot for TV show

CBS broadcast on August 17, 1990, a half-hour television pilot sitcom. The pilot, set after the events of the movie, featured the same characters, except for Shelby.

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.[23] The show was not picked up to series.

Awards and nominations

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Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1989 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Julia Roberts Nominated[24]
1989 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Won[25]
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Sally Field Nominated[26]
1991 British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role Shirley MacLaine Nominated[27]
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

See also


  1. ^ Lechuguilla (November 22, 1989). "Steel Magnolias (1989)". IMDb.
  2. ^ "Steel Magnolias - Production and Contact Info". IMDb. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  3. ^ "Steel Magnolias at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Ross, Herbert (November 22, 1989), Steel Magnolias (Comedy, Drama, Romance), TriStar Pictures, Rastar Films, retrieved January 12, 2023
  5. ^ "Things Even Die-Hard Steel Magnolias Fans Probably Don't Know About the Classic | Southern Living".
  6. ^ People Archives: Vol. 29, No. 3 (January 25, 1988), "Robert Harling, Author of a Hit Comedy Based on a Family Tragedy" by Kim Hubbard.
  7. ^ "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
  8. ^ Lechuguilla (November 22, 1989). "Steel Magnolias (1989)". IMDb.
  9. ^ "Steel Magnolias". Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Steel Magnolias". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  12. ^ Hinson, Hal (November 17, 1989). "'Steel Magnolias' (PG)". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 17, 1989). "Steel Magnolias". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  14. ^ "Steel Magnolias (1989)". Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  15. ^ "Steel Magnolia Reviews". Metacritic.
  16. ^ "Steel Magnolias (1989)". Box Office Mojo.
  17. ^ Hunt, Dennis (August 2, 1990). "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Internal Affairs' Has Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "Steel Magnolias (1989) - Financial Information". Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  19. ^ Hilton, Perez. "Steel Magnolias To Be Remade With All-Black Cast". Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^[dead link]
  22. ^ Hale, Mike (October 5, 2012). "'Steel Magnolias' on Lifetime, With Queen Latifah". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "Things Even Die-Hard Steel Magnolias Fans Probably Don't Know About the Classic | Southern Living".
  24. ^ "Academy Awards Database". Academy Awards Database. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  25. ^ "Steele Magnolias Golden Globes". Golden Globes. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  26. ^ "Steele Magnolias Golden Globes". Golden Globes. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  27. ^ "BAFTA Awards, Film, Actress in a Supporting Role in 1991". BAFTA Awards. Retrieved June 10, 2021.