Robert Harling (writer)

Robert M. Harling III (born November 12, 1951) is an American writer, producer and film director.

Robert M. Harling III
BornNovember 12, 1951 (1951-11-12) (age 68)
Years active1987–present


Early life

He was born in 1951 in Dothan, Alabama, one of three children of Robert M. Harling, Jr., and Margaret Jones Harling (1923-2013).[1][2][3][4] He graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and obtained a law degree from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans.[3][4][5] While in law school, he sang in a band which performed in New Orleans on weekends.[4]


However, Harling never used his law degree: skipping the bar exam, he instead moved to New York City to become an actor, auditioning for bit parts in plays and television commercials, and working as a ticket seller for Broadway shows.[3][4]

After the death of his younger sister, Susan, in 1985 due to diabetes, Harling wrote a short story and adapted it into a play, Steel Magnolias,[3][4][5][6][7] which was produced off-Broadway in 1987 to great acclaim and was subsequently translated into seventeen languages.[4]

Harling also wrote the screenplay for the film version of the play that was produced in 1989, starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts.[8][9][10][11] He played a small role in the film as a minister.[8]

Harling went on to write more screenplays: Soapdish (1991), The First Wives Club (1996), and Laws of Attraction (2004); he also worked as an uncredited script doctor on a number of films. Harling also wrote and directed the sequel to Terms of Endearment titled The Evening Star (1996).[5][8][12]

In the spring of 2012, he served as writer and producer of the TV show GCB, which aired briefly on ABC-TV.[5][8][11] In the same year, it was reported that Harling was adapting Soapdish into a musical.[5][13]

Personal life

He is Presbyterian[13] He owns the Oaklawn Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana.[14][15]






  1. Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home, Obituary: Margaret Jones Harling, Margaret Jones Harling Obituary
  2. "Robert Harling - Alliance Theatre".
  3. Kim Hubbard, Robert Harling, Author of a Hit Comedy Based on a Family Tragedy, People, Vol. 29, No. 3, January 25, 1988
  4. Julia Reed, The Interview: Robert Harling, Garden & Gun, December 2012 – January 2013
  5. Brooks Barnes, Sweet Tea and Tart Women, The New York Times, February 29, 2012
  6. Anne McCracken, Mary Semel, A broken heart still beats: after your child dies, Hazelden Publishing, 2000, p. 87
  7. Jeremy Kinser, Steel Magnolias Back In Bloom, The Advocate, October 25, 2012
  8. "Robert Harling". IMDb.
  9. Karen Hollinger, In the company of women: contemporary female friendship films, Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p. 75
  10. Tara McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003, p. 159
  11. Tanner Transky, Robert Harling: The Man Who Loves Women, Entertainment Weekly, April 13, 2012
  12. Peter C. Rollins, The Columbia companion to American history on film, New York City: Columbia University Press, 2007 p. 494
  13. Lisa Rosen, Robert Harling, Darren Star breathe life into 'GCB', The Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2012
  14. Foundation, Joyous Coast (April 1, 2003). "Natchitoches". Arcadia Publishing via Google Books.
  15. "Oaklawn Plantation--Cane River National Heritage Area: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary".
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