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“I remember a very ‘Hollywood-type’ movie studio exec being concerned about the stars’ privacy while living in our small town during the filming,” Harling says. True to form, one of the local grande dames commented on the oncoming tidal wave of huge stars [including Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley Mac Laine, Daryl Hannah, and Olympia Dukakis] and production crews.
She worried, ‘I just hope all those Californians leave us alone.’ “They were, however, very intrigued by this new girl, Julia Roberts, who would portray my sister Susan’s character of Shelby,” he says.
Today, shoppers will discover an eclectic selection of goods, from general hardware and vintage toys to Christmas decorations and coffins.
Every sale is rung up on the store’s first hand-cranked cash register that’s been in use since 1917.
Today, the historic structures are home to bed and breakfasts, cafes, bars, galleries, boutiques, and the state’s oldest general store, Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile. The Christmas carnival in Steel Magnolias was patterned on the Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, a six-week show featuring millions of twinkling bulbs, a hundred brightly lit set pieces floating on the lake, and spectacular fireworks shows every weekend.
Natchitoches has put on the festival since 1926, and there’s no better way to cap a wintertime visit. “One of my favorite moments growing up—and I know Susan loved this too—was the ‘turning on the lights’ during the Christmas Festival. “It was always a chilly Saturday night in December.
An outstanding local restaurant on the banks of Lake Sibley, The Mariner became the Spago of Natchitoches, says Harling.
I still laugh at one grocer’s observation: ‘If it hadn’t been for [director] Herbert Ross, I’d never have known the difference between Osetra and Beluga.’” In the quarter century since filming wrapped, the movie has become a Southern classic. “The story is true, and despite its very specific setting, the dynamic is universal. The characters are witty and real; their dialogue is lifted from life.Jean Baptiste to guard against Spanish advances from the province of Texas.It served as a military outpost and trading center until 1762.It’s a celebration of spectacular individuals, which reinforces the idea that we can make it through the good and the bad with support, friendship, love, and laughter.In today’s world, that reassurance becomes more and more essential.” While today’s visitor may not run into Shirley Mac Laine (who played crusty grande dame Ouiser Boudreaux) at the supermarket or have the chance to sidle up to Olympia Dukakis (who portrayed Clairee Belcher, the cheery widow) at a local watering hole, most of the movie’s filming locations remain intact, as does the welcoming spirit of the town that inspired Steel Magnolias.