The person who reviewed the movie giving it 2 or 3 stars and claiming not to believe the story is true can be assured that indeed, the story of Shelby in Steel Magnolias in true. Shelby is based upon the story of Robert Harling's sister Susan Harling Robinson and was written in remberance of her for her son who was 2 years old at the time of her death in 1986 due to complication of diabetes and a kidney transplant (from her mother) which ultimately failed.
She and her brother Robert attended the exact same university that I now attend: Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She was a member of Phi Mu Kappa Iota Sorority (The second oldest in the nation) and WAS indeed a nurse. For whatever sad reason, Susan decides to have a child ("I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."... one of her famous last words) even though doctor's warn her against this and she ultimately loses her life. The sad facts of life is that her son Robert will never know his mother. The movie is definitely worth watching and I say this not because of the "famous cast," but because it shows that, hey, life is short and sometimes we make choices that cost us dearly. Susan died a very young woman and left behind a husband, son, mother and family forever bereft of her presence. Her brother said (of the script) that he wrote it in 10 days not long after her death because he was angry that she was dead. He later wanted it so that his nephew would remember his mother.
Wynona Ryder was originally offered the role of Shelby/Susan, but was considered too young. Julia Robert's was a wonderful choice and definitely not someone I would consider "horsey faced." If she is "horsey faced," she makes one d*** good salary being so ugly.