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When this movie first was on TV, my ex-husband came home from work and sarcastically asked, "What are you watching on TV?" I said there wasn't anything on.......I lied...I was watching it on and off.....but it frightened me so much on so many levels (one level was the husband in the movie treated his wife better than I had ever been treated)....I actually was living that abuse and had been for over 6 years...I believe it was because of this movie, that I was finally able to get out of that relationship. I can't say I got out that night, but it was only a matter of time before I did. It took me another 18 months to get out and away for good. It is on tonight in January 2008. I will watch again as a celebration that I am finally free of abusive relationships..and will never be treated that way again, ever!!
You know, most people who have not lived through domestic violence may
see this film as yet another "man beating his wife" story but I grew up
with domestic violence. It is a painful and scary way to develop into a
young woman. So I took this story very personally. I believed it to be
very realistic and and shocking. A mother who condones the abuse is all
too common on both sides of each character. It happens more often then
most people think. Women have been taught for years to put up with
their husbands demands and you will find that it is usually the mothers
in these situations that ask their daughter or daughter in laws to be
quiet about the beatings. Police officers, twenty years ago barely
arrested the perpetrators. They let most men go back to their wives to
punish them further. It was a vicious cycle until the late 80's when
women officers became more common. Psychology classes on DV became
mandatory for officers so they could understand the victim/perpretator
situation and learn how to get the wife out.
I have read many comments about this film and yes, it is old, a little outdated and stark but the message is clear. The way they handled the situation with the children was amazing. All of that is all too common. Children witnessing violence. I would ask every viewer of this film to be more sensitive to this true story. Imagine being humiliated in front of your children, uneducated and trying to be the wife that society tells you be. Both men and woman should absorb this film and really think about how far we've come since the days of the "rule of thumb." Don't just say this is a chick flick and write it off as many have done. Even if you don't enjoy the wonderful performances, the truth of this film should rock you into some sort of reality.
I have seen this movie many times and still it has an effect on me. I
have read the book and I can say that the movie does stick closely to
the book regarding the events in Francine's life. Of course, they can
not fit 12 years of abuse into a 2 hour film and so there are many
events that are not included in the movie. Also another major fact
missing from the movie is the children. In real life Mickey and
Francine had four children, in the movie, there is only three. Why I
think that happened is on the night that Francine did kill Mickey, her
third child (son Dana) was not at home and at a friend's house. When
she drove to the police station, she only had three of the children in
the car with her.
Francine's mother did herself suffer from violence (but not to the extent of Francine's abuse) Her mother didn't approve of the abuse but only that Francine had to at least try and live with it. Francine had literally no where to go. She had four children with Mickey and no matter where she went, he would found her. As someone pointed out, Mickey was the only man who abuse his wife in his family. There were three other brothers in the Hughes household and not one of them, hit their wife. In fact, Mickey's mother was a very strong women and his father didn't abuse his mother either. His family were always there to help Francine and they were the ones that she would go to during the early years. Towards the end, they were getting old themselves and couldn't handle Mickey's violence and told her, not to come running to them anymore. The mother did a complete turn around at the court case and said that Mickey never abused Francine at all.
Just to make the ending a bit more understanding. When Francine came home from school that day on 7th March 1977. She took the children to go shopping. When they came back from the shopping, that is when the abuse started. Mickey didn't like what Francine had brought and it started from that. He then was telling her that she would have to quit school and she wouldn't agree. He started to beat her and nearly strangled her. He made her burn her books. Francine went out to burn the books and when she came back into the house, he asked her again, are you going to quit school and she replied. No Mickey, I am still going. That is when all the abuse, really started. The children called the police. The police came and had a talk with Mickey. It was after they left and half an hour later when Francine and the kids were sitting to have dinner, that is when Mickey came back into the kitchen and started to beat Francine again. He then made her have sex with him. It was after all of that and when he finally went to sleep, that is when Francine lost it and burned the bed.
A must read book, to truly understand the movie but also saying that, the movie does stick to the book, as best as it could.
I have seen this film dozens of times and consider it a remarkable powerful film. Farrah Fawcett is so easy to look at for hours on end, especially in these 70's housewife clothes. She is at her peak in this film and others of a similar nature, Small Sacrifices and Extremities. This is the best of the three, however. I am stunned each time I watch it at the truth of the story. There really are women and children who must endure this kind of brutality and abuse. Farrah is so good at showing Francine's slowly crumbling self-esteem and sanity. The other performances are top- notch. In particular, Grace Zabriskie seems to me as authentic as possible as a fiercely stubborn, family-centered overbearing mother in denial. The scene where the wife-beater's parents throw their bodies between those of their son and the arresting officers while moments earlier allowing the same son to attempt to kill his wife is mind-boggling. Well done. It makes me want to read the book now that I realize there is one!
Farrah Fawcett plays an abused mother who kills her husband by setting his
bed on fire. She is then arrested for murder, pleads insanity, and sets
convince the jury by recounting her story describing exactly what she
A staggering study of domestic abuse, brings the emotional crises of abused women to heart-aching life.
***1/2 out of ****. One of the greatest TV movies ever.
This has to be the best TV Movie ever created. Directed by the same guy
who directed Xanadu....[??? How's that possible? He also directed
WALMART: the High Cost of Low Prices, too] His direction of The Burning
Bed is superb, to say the least.
You really feel as though her fear and terror are your own through claustrophobic cinematography in the scenes where she's being attacked. The dignity the cast and director were able to conjure for this sad story is far better than television deserves. The violence she imparts upon her husband gives her no satisfaction for she is not a malicious or vengeful woman.
I believe this movie has inspired countless women to leave abusive relationships since the first day it aired and more so as time has passed. Through it's ability to reach such a wide audience and it's star power, the attention it drew to the issue of battered women could be considered nothing less than a milestone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was an excellent movie about what battering can do to the person
that it is happening to. I commend Francine for what she did. That goes
to show you if your nasty you will get a nasty taste of medicine at
some point or another in your Lifetime. Not guilty by reason of
temporary insanity is a reasonable defense and verdict to me in the
right situation. It's very hard to live with someone who is violent.
I'm not saying that it is okay to kill someone, because it most
certainly is not. But when you're in that situation things can happen
that you don't want to happen. Kudos to the cast, crew and filmmakers.
Two Thumbs Way Up!
Update: I saw here as I was looking at other comments here the other day that someone wanted an update. I have a special people magazine with true crime stories in it and one about this case called, "Burning Down The House", is in it telling the basic facts. I have also read the book, and it said in the epilogue that Francine and her kids, after three years were doing very well and she was going to school to become a nurse. Her kids had no reports of problems either. Francine also helps out now informing people about the causes and effects of domestic violence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of the first TV movies to deal with the serious subject of
domestic abuse, which is still an ongoing problem.
Farrah Fawcett proves that she is much more than a pretty face with sparkling white teeth as Francine Hughes, a young woman who falls for a slightly older high school dropout, Mickey (Paul Le Mat), but after she marries him, discovers that he has some major anger issues, and, finding herself trapped in a nightmare of horrible mistreatment, seeks help, but her family and in-laws (whose bizarre denial almost calls for straight-jackets), basically tell her to stay put. On top of this, social services seems all too willing to look the other way.
Francine tries to make the best of her situation, she finds herself drawn back to him, and even after she manages to obtain a divorce, Mickey is still able to insinuate himself into her life, insisting that they need to be a family. No matter how many times she leaves him, or attempts to escape, he is always right on her heels, and uses their children as leverage in order to coerce her into reconciling with him. Even when law enforcement intervenes, it does not deter him. Mickey blames his behavior on his drinking, inability to hold down a job, and on Francine, and, like many abusive spouses, does everything and anything he can to rob her of her independence and sense of self-worth. He feels threatened when she even looks at other men, wears revealing clothing, and attempts to further her education. When he is severely injured in an auto accident, he is not above manipulating the situation to his advantage. Finally, Francine snaps. She douses the bedroom with gasoline as he lies in a drunken sleep, and lights a match, fleeing in her automobile with her offspring.
It then must be determined if she committed premeditated murder, or if she was temporarily unhinged.
The jury's verdict is in favor of the defense, and as people file out of the courtroom, Francine cuddles her children around her . . . . . .
People who have not experienced domestic violence themselves or studied this crime may not be sympathetic or understanding toward what these victims experience. There is indeed a string of victims, not just the abused partner in question but also the children. Ignorant individuals sometimes blame or second-guess the victims, typical questions, "Why didn't she leave earlier?", "Why didn't she call the cops?", or, "Why does she keep going back to him?" This film should be aired frequently, and has recently been released on DVD. Kudos to the cast for their realistic and heartbreaking portrayals in this true life story. This is an ongoing and serious issue that still needs to be addressed. Recommended.
I have seen the movie and read the book "The Burning Bed". As is always the
case, a two hour movie (actually an hour and a half at the most, when you
allow for commercials) can't fit in every single detail. For those
reviewers (mostly male, it appears) who don't "get it", who are hung up on
the details of "why didn't the cops do this, why didn't Francine do that?",
read the book and maybe you will be able to grasp the situation this woman
lived in day in and day out.
As for the movie, I think it did what it was supposed to do. It was not a big budget Hollywood blockbuster, it was a made for TV movie. It told a story, a woman who was driven to do something desperate because she couldn't find help anywhere else.
In a perfect world men like Mickey Harper would not exist. But they do, and at the time that this took place (the 1970's) spousal abuse was, in the eyes of the law, no big deal. In fact, the book points out the only times Mickey was arrested was if he got physical with the cops. Otherwise he was basically told, "now behave yourself" and they would leave him to continue beating the daylights out of Francine as soon as they were gone. The attitude was "well, if you don't want him beating you up, just leave".
I don't know for sure what I think about what Francine did. Part of me can see how she couldn't see any other way out. Another part of me wonders if maybe she couldn't have done anything else. Not ever having been faced with her exact situation, I can't say what I would have done. But I don't believe she is some evil, vicious person.
And to the reviewer who said spousal abuse was less of a problem today because "women are seen as educable" and families have fewer children...I can see WHY you have an EX-wife. For the record, spousal abuse occurs in ALL types and sizes of families--and Mickey Harper beat his wife up all during their marriage--it wasn't having four children (I think the movie might have only shown three--it's been a while since I saw it--but they had four) that cause it.
I loved the movie. I now want to read the book because I hear that it is much more detailed than the movie, of course. I was just wondering how Francine and her kids were doing since that People's magazine article in 1984. I read a little about her remarrying and the trouble her kids went through and she also. No wonder. Even though that no good Mickey was gone, there's no way you can erase 14 years of mental, physical, and emotional abuse clean. I was not surprised her life went spiraling downward. The woman, and her kids, needed continuing help in order to lead a somewhat normal life and, no doubt, she did not get it. I just wonder how she's doing today. I hope she's okay. That poor woman deserves a badge of honor or a purple heart for the war she fought for 14 years. God bless her.
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