- Both a comedy and a weepie, the Louisiana-set Steel Magnolias is above all a film about female friendship and loyalty and strength in the face of tragedy. It’s based on the stage play by Robert Harling who was inspired to write it following the death of his sister from diabetes.
- Robert Harling’s sister was apparently a big Dolly Parton fan and loved her song I Will Always Love You.
- And the film stars Dolly Parton, alongside Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis. The men in the film are not worth mentioning because all they do is shoot at trees, eat cake and dance a bit. That’s pretty good going though, considering there there are no male roles at all in the original play.
- Apparently, when Bette Davis saw Harling’s original 1987 play, she fancied herself playing Ouiser in a film version, starring alongside Katherine Hepburn as Clairee and Elizabeth Taylor as Truvy. I’ve no idea whether this is true or not, but can you imagine? What a different movie that would have been!
- And that’s not all – Julia Roberts stars as the diabetic Shelby whose wedding and subsequent decision to have a child lie at the heart of the action. But, Meg Ryan was originally contracted to play this part. She pulled out though to star in When Harry Met Sally.
- This was one of Roberts’ earliest roles – sandwiched between Mystic Pizza and Pretty Woman. Is it just me or does this actress never age? I’ve just been checking out the trailer for Eat Pray Love (out next week) and she doesn’t look any different.
- While this film raised awareness of diabetes, many diabetics over the years have criticised it for overdramatising the condition and scaremongering rather than educating.
- “Gentle as the sweet magnolia, strong as steel her faith and pride, she’s an everlasting shoulder, she’s the leaning post of life.” If you’ve ever wondered about this film’s title, then you’re clearly not a Dolly Parton fan. Her 1991 song An Eagle When She Flies was clearly inspired by her involvement in this movie.
- Dolly Parton plays beauty salon owner Truvy in the film. Apparently, after a poor take, frustrated director Herbert Ross reprimanded Dolly and asked her if she could act. In typically comical Dolly style she replied “I’m not an actress, I’m Dolly Parton. I’m a personality who has been hired to do this movie. You’re the director. It’s your job to make me look like I’m acting!”
- This is one of my favourite scenes – from the bleeding armadillo cake to the Jambolaya knees-up. Fabulous.
- Steel Magnolias spawned an American TV sitcom pilot, which picked up where the film left off. It didn’t get made in the end though. I’m sure things would have been much different had it starred the fabulous female cast from the film.
Steel Magnolias is showing today 18th September on Living at 3pm