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Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story

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Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story
GenreHistorical romance
Screenplay byJames Lee
Directed byRichard T. Heffron
ComposerGerald Fried
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes3
Executive producers
CinematographyJean Tournier
Running time285 minutes
Production companies
Budget$20 million[1]
Original release
ReleaseNovember 10 (1987-11-10) –
November 12, 1987 (1987-11-12)

Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story is an American television miniseries broadcast on ABC from November 10 to 12, 1987. It stars Armand Assante as Napoleon Bonaparte and Jacqueline Bisset as Joséphine de Beauharnais, with Stephanie Beacham as Therese Tallien, Patrick Cassidy as Hippolyte Charles, Jane Lapotaire as Letizia Bonaparte, Anthony Perkins as Talleyrand, and Ione Skye as Pauline Bonaparte. It was directed by Richard T. Heffron, based on a screenplay by James Lee.

The plot focuses on the romantic relationship between Napoleon and Josephine from 1794 to 1814, only lightly touching on battles and other historical events. Executive producer David L. Wolper, who had previously created prominent miniseries such as North and South (directed by Heffron) and Roots (written by Lee, among others), stated, "The mini-series covers some of Napoleon's military accomplishments, but only as a backdrop to how the love between these two people affected France, the world and, most importantly, Napoleon and Josephine themselves."[1]


Actor Role
Armand Assante Napoleon Bonaparte
Jacqueline Bisset Joséphine de Beauharnais
Stephanie Beacham Therese Tallien
Anthony Higgins Joseph Bonaparte
Patrick Cassidy Capt. Hippolyte Charles
Nickolas Grace Lord Nelson
Jane Lapotaire Letizia Bonaparte
Also starring
William Lucking Sgt. Dupont
Jean-Pierre Stewart Barras
John Vickery Bourrienne
Leigh Taylor-Young Madame de Stael
Ione Skye Pauline Bonaparte
Special guest star
Anthony Perkins Talleyrand
Paul Brooke Junot
Jeremy Brudenell Louis Bonaparte
Simon Chandler Leclerc
Paul Geoffrey Murat
Julie Graham Caroline Bonaparte
Jane Gurnett Elisa Bonaparte


Napoleon and Josephine was filmed on location in Paris and Morocco, and at studios in Portsmouth. The producers decided to shoot scenes in Paris rather than less expensive locales out of a desire for authenticity. This, and a scheduling disruption when star Bisset missed four days of filming due to illness,[2] caused the budget to grow to $20 million.[1]


Critical reaction to Napoleon and Josephine was largely negative. Jeff Jarvis of People described the production as a "gooey mess".[3] John J. O'Connor of the New York Times was unimpressed with the leads' performances:

Ms. Bisset is beautiful but she conveys the elegance of a contemporary perfume ad. Her Josephine is not a terribly convincing 18th-century woman of affairs, especially one who reportedly had rotten teeth. And Mr. Assante is exasperating in his determination to overwhelm, whether weeping uncontrollably, barking orders to his troops or having an epileptic fit.[1]

Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times found Bisset "credible as a sympathetic Josephine" and praised the series' "nice battle sequences", but criticized the script as "heavy on hot-breathed romance, though – offering little sense of history or Napoleon's genius."[4]

Nielsen ratings for the series were disappointing, with its three episodes finishing 15th, 26th, and 30th in their respective time slots.[5]

Napoleon and Josephine received two Emmy nominations – Gerald Fried for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition, and Michel Fresnay for Outstanding Achievement in Costuming.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d O'Connor, John J. (November 10, 1987). "'Napoleon and Josephine', A Mini-Series". The New York Times. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  2. ^ Mills, Nancy (July 17, 1987). "'Napoleon And Josephine': French Love Story Re-created For ABC Miniseries". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  3. ^ Jarvis, Jeff (November 9, 1987). "Picks and Pans Review: Napoleon and Josephine: a Love Story". People. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  4. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (November 10, 1987). "'Napoleon and Josephine': French History Goes Bust". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  5. ^ Buck, Jerry (November 20, 1987). "'Napoleon' series a TV ratings flop". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. p. 5C. Retrieved September 27, 2022 – via Google News Archive.
  6. ^ "Awards & Nominations". Emmys. Retrieved September 27, 2022.

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