The Burning Bed
The Burning Bed (DVD cover).jpg
Based onThe Burning Bed
1980 novel
by Faith McNulty
Written byRose Leiman Goldemberg
Directed byRobert Greenwald
StarringFarrah Fawcett
Paul Le Mat
Richard Masur
Theme music composerCharles Gross
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producersJon Avnet
Steve Tisch
ProducersCarol Schreder
Rose Leiman Goldemberg (co-producer)
CinematographyIsidore Mankofsky
EditorsRichard W. Fetterman
Michael A. Stevenson
Running time95 mins
Production companyTisch/Avnet Productions Inc.
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 8, 1984 (1984-10-08)

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

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 house was in Rosharon, Texas.

The movie was also filmed in El Monte, California.



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

Critical response

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.