The French Atlantic Affair
First edition (publ. Atheneum Books)
Directed byDouglas Heyes
Written byDouglas Heyes
Based onThe French Atlantic Affair by Ernest Lehman
StarringTelly Savalas
Chad Everett
Michelle Phillips
Shelley Winters
Horst Buchholz
CinematographyRalph Woolsey
Edited byTom Stevens
Jamie Caylor
Music byJohn Addison
Aaron Spelling Productions
MGM Television
Release date
November 15-18, 1979
Running time
278 minutes
CountryUnited States

The French Atlantic Affair is a novel by Ernest Lehman which was published in 1977. A 3-part TV miniseries based on the book was produced and broadcast in 1979.


A luxury ocean liner, the SS Marseilles of the French Atlantic Line, is hijacked by Father Dunleavy, a messianic priest, and his cult followers for a $70 million ransom in gold. Harold Columbine, a novelist, and Charles Girodt, the ship's captain, attempt to save the lives of the passengers, some of whom are also members of the group.

Two young amateur radio enthusiasts are the only link between the ship and the outside world. The SS Marseilles was based on the ocean liner SS France (1961) of the French Line.

In the novel, the hijackers were a group of employees laid off by NASA and its contractors after the termination of the Apollo program. The amateur radio operators were a passenger (not a member of the terrorist group), and his on-shore friend, both of whom were physicians.



Exteriors and scenes on deck in the miniseries were shot in the Caribbean aboard Carnival Cruise Lines's SS Festivale. The liner retained its name and markings in the series, though it was said to be owned by the fictional French Atlantic Line. The vessel in the novel is called the SS Marseilles and is based upon the French Line's SS France. Interiors were shot on soundstages and in Long Beach, California aboard the RMS Queen Mary. The film also shot on location in Paris and surrounding areas.