The woman we know as Empress Josephine of France was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie in Martinique in 1763 to French parents. When her younger sister died, she was sent to France to marry Alexandre de Beauharnais in her sister’s place. The couple had two children. During the French Revolution, Alexandre was guillotined while Josephine was imprisoned.
She met the future emperor Napoleon in 1795 — it was he who gave her the nickname ‘Josephine’ — and became his mistress; the two married the next year. When Napoleon became emperor in 1804, he crowned her empress of the French. Unfortunately Josephine and Napoleon did not have children — her imprisonment may have caused her to go through menopause prematurely — and Napoleon divorced her in order to secure the succession in 1810. She lived her final years at her chateau at Malmaison and continued to have a close relationship with Napoleon.
Thanks to the L’histoire de France à travers le cinéma blog for some of the more obscure French productions!
Napoleon and Josephine (1924)
It’s listed on IMDB but without any further information — not even a cast! So this is all I’ve got.
Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)
An adaptation of the Léonce Perret play (with Gloria Swanson in the lead role), in which a washerwoman becomes a duchess in Napoleon’s court. Josephine is played by Suzanne Bianchetti.
An epic French silent film, with Albert Dieudonné as Napoleon and Gina Manès as Josehine.
The Fighting Eagle (1927)
“The exploits of Brigadier Gerard who helps expose Foreign Minister Talleyrand as a traitor to Napoleon,” per IMDB. Julia Faye plays Josephine.
Napoleon’s Barber (1928)
Director John Ford’s first talkie, with Natalie Golitzen as the empress.
So Ended a Great Love (1934)
Napoleon divorces Josephine (Erna Morena) in order to marry Marie-Louise.
Anthony Adverse (1936)
An orphan is potentially separated from his love (Olivia de Havilland); Colleen Coloman plays Josephine.
The Pearls of the Crown (1937)
French director Sacha Guitry loved to make epic historical films. This one touches on Henry VIII of England, Elizabeth I, and Napoleon. Josephine is played by Jacqueline Delubac, who also plays Mary, Queen of Scots in the same film.
Romance of Louisiana (1937)
A short film about the Louisiana Purchase, with Suzanne Kaaren as the empress.
A Royal Divorce (1938)
Napoleon and Josephine’s (Ruth Chatterton) relationship from meeting to divorce.
Le Fabuleux destin de Désirée Clary (1942)
Another Sacha Guitry film, about the woman who was engaged to Napoleon before Josephine (Lise Delamare – La Marseillaise).
An adaptation of a play about Louis XVII (son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette). Gisèle Casadesus plays Josephine.
The film that inspired this post — look for my review tomorrow! Another version of the story of Désirée Clary (Jean Simmons), who was briefly engaged to Napoleon (Marlon Brando). Merle Oberon plays Empress Josephine.
Loves of Three Queens (1954)
An epic film by French director Sacha Guitry, with Michèle Morgan (Shadow of the Guillotine) as Josephine.
The Story of Mankind (1957)
An adaptation of a classic children’s book telling the history of humankind. Marie Windsor plays the empress.
La caméra explore le temps: L’Exécution du Duc d’Enghien (1958)
La caméra explore le temps was a French TV show whose episodes focused on different stories from history. In this episode, about the duc d’Enghien (who was executed on charges of aiding Britain against the French), Anne Caprile plays Josephine.
An epic historical film about Napoleon and the Battle of Austerlitz. Martine Carol (Lucrèce Borgia) plays Josephine.
Vénus impériale (1962)
A French-Italian movie about Napoleon’s sister, Pauline. Micheline Presle (Royal Affairs in Versailles) plays Empress Josephine.
Une journée de l’Empereur (1964)
A French TV (movie? episode of a series?) showing a day at Napoleon’s Tuileries palace. Françoise Seigner plays Josephine.
Eagle in a Cage (1965)
A TV movie about Napoleon’s final years, including his imprisonment on St. Helena, with Jacqueline Bertrand as Josephine.
Amoureuse Joséphine (1974)
A French TV movie, but that’s all I can find out! Évelyne Dandry plays Josephine.
Napoléon and Love (1974)
An ITV miniseries about Napoleon and his various loves, with Billie Whitelaw (Start the Revolution Without Me) as Josephine.
The Loves and Times of Scaramouche (1976)
PEOPLE I JUST WORK HERE. I CANNOT EXPLAIN THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE, SUCH AS WHY THIS FILM ABOUT SWASHBUCKLER SCARAMOUCHE TRYING TO ASSASSINATE NAPOLEON AND ENDING UP IN LOVE WITH JOSEPHINE FEATURES URSULA ANDRESS AS JOSEPHINE. THIS IS ABOVE MY PAY GRADE.
Les Grandes conjurations: L’Attentat de la rue Niçaise (1978)
Another French TV movie about Napoleon, with Evelyne Dandry reprising her role as Josephine.
The Love Boat (1978)
Apparently one episode features actors Fernando Lamas and Michele Lee dressed as Napoleon and Josephine for a masquerade party. Too funny not to include!
Joséphine ou la comédie des ambitions (1979)
A French TV miniseries focused on Josephine (Danièle Lebrun – Camille Claudel).
Armand Assante as Napoleon and Jacqueline Bisset as Josephine, and all the cold-shoulder dresses you could ever want. Someday I will force myself to suffer through this for Snark Week glory. Maybe this year?
A big-budget, incredibly boring TV miniseries about Napoleon, with Isabella Rossellini as Josephine (as well as Gerard Depardieu as Fouché, John Malkovich as Talleyrand, and costumes by Pierre-Jean Larroque).
Who’s YOUR Empress Josephine on-screen?