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The original hits a milestone – “Steel Magnolias: 35th Anniversary Edition”

Updated: May 21


M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) pins a honeymoon corsage onto her excited daughter Shelby (Julia Roberts) in the comedy-drama. Roberts received her first Oscar nomination for the performance.

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4K Ultra HD; 1989; PG for mature themes, language, and brief nudity; Digital copy via Amazon Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Fandango (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: “In Full Bloom: Remembering ‘Steel Magnolias’” originally on the 2001 DVD edition


FOR LAND’S SAKE! Has it really been 35 years since we all laughed and cried over the triumphs and mishaps of six women in a small Louisiana bayou town? It certainly has – and now Sony Pictures presents the stories of M’Lynn, her daughter Shelby, Truvy, Annelle, Clairee and Ouiser in a sparkling new 4K restoration.


Screenwriter Robert Harling was a fledgling actor in New York City when his sister died. It marked him so deeply the only way he was able to work through his feelings was to write a stage play about her life. Director Herbert Ross (“The Turning Point,” “The Goodbye Girl”) saw the off-Broadway hit and instantly saw the potential of “Steel Magnolias.” He and Harling translated the play for the theatrical adaptation.


The story follows Shelby, played by then-21-year-old Julia Roberts, who received her first Oscar nomination, and her tightly-knit family and friends. The ensemble cast features Sally Field as M’Lynn Eatenton, mother of the bride-to-be, Dolly Parton as beauty shop owner Truvy Jones, Daryl Hannah as Truvy’s ditsy new glamour technician Annelle, Olympia Dukakis as wealthy widow Clairee, and Shirley MacLaine as crotchy Ouiser Boudreaux, the richest and meanest woman in town. “I managed in a few decades to marry two of the most worthless men in the universe. And, then proceeded to have the three most ungrateful children ever conceived. The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God,” Ouiser tells the women. 


In between the comedic one-liners, the underlying story is Shelby’s desire to live a full and meaningful life, and have children while living with Type 1 diabetes.

(1&2) During the opening title sequence we’re introduced to Annelle Dupuy (Daryl Hannah) a recent beauty school graduate, who walks to Truvy’s Beauty Spot. The 4K master has exceptional clarity with the distant shot as shop owner Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) walks from her garage business to the house. (3) Truvy greets Annelle her new glamour technician. (4) Shelby, M’Lynn, Truvy, Clairee, and Annelle react to the arrival of Ouiser Boudreaux and her dog.



Carried over from previous editions is Ross’ witty commentary, who discusses his female stars. Roberts went head-to-head with Winona Ryder for the role. Many felt Roberts wasn’t pretty enough. Go figure. But, at times Ross was harsh to his inexperienced cast members, telling Dolly Parton she couldn’t act. In her autobiography, she told Ross, “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.” Ross also talks about how “Magnolias” was his first feature after his wife’s death and how its celebration of life helped his healing.


The retrospective documentary includes interviews from the cast, the director, and Harling, who provides detailed stories about his mother, younger sister Susan to whom the film is dedicated, and their friends. “I told her story,” Harling says of his sister, “and boy, she gave me a gift.” The original off-Broadway play took place on one set – the beauty parlor – with the six actresses.


The comedy-drama was filmed in Harling’s hometown of Natchitoches, Louisiana, where he plays the minister for Shelby’s wedding to young attorney Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott). Other male actors include Tom Skerritt as Drum, the father of the bride, and Sam Shepard as Truvy’s husband Spud, an offshore oil rigger.


A nice surprise is the TV pilot of “Steel Magnolias” (1.33:1 aspect ratio, standard-def) written by Harling and also filmed in Natchitoches that finds its way onto the 4K disc. It stars Cindy Williams (“Laverne & Shirley,” “The Conversation”) as M’Lynn, but CBS didn’t pick it up for its fall 1990 season. Ten deleted scenes are also included on the enclosed 4K.

(1) Wedding day tense between mother and daughter - especially since the reception will be held at the family home. (2&3) Fiancé attorney Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) makes a surprise visit to see Shelby to ensure his love and that he wants to marry. She says, “You meet me at 2:00. Presbyterian church. I’ll be the one in the veil down front.” (4) The constant firey exchange between Drum, the father of the bride (Tom Skerritt), and the crotchety Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine). (5&6) M’Lynn and Shelby get their hair rolled and teased. With the wedding day’s emotions, Shelby falls into a diabetic shock and drinks orange to stabilize her blood glucose levels.



Sony Pictures, known for Hollywood’s top 4K remastering, doesn’t disappoint, using the original camera negative (1.85:1) and extracting every single element of the natural film grain. Some may consider the grain too much, but this 4K master provides an archival duplicate of what’s on the negative. Other studios should follow Sony’s playbook when it comes to persevering a theatrical film for future generations.


The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading is very good, but at times the actors are left in a darker tone than what I would’ve selected – especially scenes filmed with a much brighter background. The colors are well saturated from the greens, blues, and reds, while the facial toning is natural.


The peak HDR10 brightness hits 1581 nits and averages 221 nits, while the overall video bitrates runs in the upper 60 Megabits per second range and encoded onto a 100 GB disc.



Sony has also upgraded to a new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which gives a wider soundstage to the score from French composer Georges Delerue. He may have been the hardest-working composer of the 1980s creating scores for nearly 90 films during the decade. He moved to the U.S. after winning an Oscar in 1979 for “A Little Romance.” The opening sequence with Shelby’s father firing blanks into the trees to get the birds out before the backyard wedding reception, has plenty of effects for height speakers. Sony also provides the original two-channel surround track.

(1&2) Everyone is decked out in pink for Shelby’s and Jackson’s wedding. Clearly, it’s her favorite color.


“Magnolias” is a welcome addition to Sony’s wide spectrum of films in 4K Ultra HD. From black and white classics of the 1930s and ‘40s “His Girl Friday,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It Happened One Night” and the upcoming “The Lady from Shanghai” to musicals with “1776,” “Annie” and Best Picture winner “Oliver!” as well as intense, live-action films like the “Equalizer” trilogy starring Denzel Washington and the upcoming 35th anniversary of “Glory.”


As the movie trailer tagline says, “[This is] the funniest movie ever to make you cry.”  


Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


(1&2) Shelby surprises her mother with the news that she’s pregnant. Drum announces during the Christmas party that he’s going to be a grandfather. (3) Celebrating Jackson Jrs first birthday. (4) The five women will stand together to support M’Lynn. (5) Shelby gets a new haircut before entering the hospital. (6) Shelby’s post-surgery doesn’t go well. (7) During an emotional moment Clairee tells M’Lynn to hit Ouiser.



4K Ultra HD menu


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