The Burning Bed

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The Burning Bed
The Burning Bed (DVD cover).jpg
Genre Crime
Based on The Burning Bed
by Faith McNulty
Written by Rose Leiman Goldemberg
Directed by Robert Greenwald
Starring Farrah Fawcett
Paul Le Mat
Richard Masur
Theme music composer Charles Gross
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Jon Avnet
Steve Tisch
Producer(s) Carol Schreder
Rose Leiman Goldemberg (co-producer)
Cinematography Isidore Mankofsky
Editor(s) Richard W. Fetterman
Michael A. Stevenson
Running time 95 mins
Production company(s) Tisch/Avnet Productions Inc.
Distributor NBC
Original network NBC
Original release October 8, 1984

The Burning Bed is both a 1980 non-fiction book by Faith McNulty about battered housewife Francine Hughes, and a 1984 TV-movie adaptation written by Rose Leiman Goldemberg. The plot follows Hughes' trial for the murder of her husband, James Berlin "Mickey" Hughes, following her setting fire to the bed he was sleeping in at their Dansville, Michigan home on March 9, 1977, and thirteen years of physical domestic abuse at his hands.


On March 9, 1977, Francine Hughes, following thirteen years of physical domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, James Berlin "Mickey" Hughes, tells their children to put their coats on and wait for her in their car. She then pours gasoline around the bed in which Mickey is sleeping in their home in Dansville, Michigan, and sets the bed afire. After the house catches fire, Hughes drives with her children to the local police station in order to confess to the act. Hughes is tried for first degree murder, and is found by a jury of her peers to be not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. It is widely believed that the judge and the jury largely sympathized with Francine's plight and felt that Mickey's murder was a justifiable action.

Film adaptation[edit]

Having adapted the book into a made-for-television movie, Goldemberg's screenplay, The Burning Bed, premiered on NBC on October 8, 1984. Directed by Robert Greenwald, the film starred Farrah Fawcett as Francine Hughes and Paul Le Mat as Mickey Hughes.

The movie was filmed in Rosharon, Texas. The house that served as the Hughes' home still stands today.[when?]


The movie premiered with a household share of 36.2 ranking it the 17th highest rated movie to air on network television.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Television critic Matt Zoller Seitz in his 2016 book co-written with Alan Sepinwall titled TV (The Book) named The Burning Bed as the 7th greatest American TV-movie of all time, writing that "The film was a landmark in terms of content, depicting domestic violence as an unambiguous horror and a human rights violation". Seitz also praised the performance of Fawcett as "one of the finest in the history of TV-movies".[2]



  1. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 805. ISBN 0-345-45542-8. 
  2. ^ Sepinwall, Alan; Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 2016). TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time (1st ed.). New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. p. 372. ISBN 9781455588190. 

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