The movie Steel Magnolias turned 25 years old this past week. Where did the time go? Just the mention of the movie reminds me of getting my hair done and crying along with the movie characters as we watched on VHS. The star-studded film was based on a successful play and became one of the biggest hits of 1989. Let’s learn some more about Steel Magnolias.
1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.
Writer Robert Harling wrote Steel Magnolias as a way of coping with the passing of his sister, Susan, who died from complications related to diabetes in 1985. In the play, Susan became Shelby.
5. BETTE DAVIS WANTED A PIECE OF STEEL MAGNOLIAS.
Bette Davis saw the play in New York and immediately began a push to be cast in the film as Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine’s part). She also thought that Katharine Hepburn could make a fantastic Clairee and Elizabeth Taylor would be a perfect Truvy. In 1989, Harling told The Morning Call how Davis had invited him to tea to lobby for the part. As he left, Davis told him, “You may give the role of Ouiser to someone else. But you and they will hear from Bette Davis.”
15. THE FILM WAS CRITICIZED FOR THE MALE ROLES’ LACK OF SUBSTANCE.
But the guys are lucky there were any roles for them in the film at all. Though the men are often talked about in the stage play, no men appeared on the stage at any time. In his review of the film for The New York Times, Vincent Canby noted that “The men in their lives are played by Sam Shepard, Tom Skerritt and Dylan McDermott, among others, but the male characters are no more substantial now than when they were invisible.”
Treating male characters as tokens with barely any substance may be a flaw, but women are used like that in movies all the time. Steel Magnolias turned a spotlight on women and showed that a man is just one of many things they care deeply about. Read the rest of 23 Facts About Steel Magnolias at mental_floss.