SNARK WEEK RECAP: Napoleon and Josephine: a Love Story (1987) – Part 4

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Starting with our second Snark Week, I’ve picked a shitty frock flick to recap, because I love sharing the blow-by-blows with you. While I’ve asked you to choose for the past few years, I decided to executive decision things this year, since y’all keep refusing to choose this gem — so this year, I will recap Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987). Armand Assante as Napoleon! Jacqueline Bisset as Josephine! First, you must know that the costumes for this were designed by Michel Fresnay, who has designed numerous operas as well as a few TV movies, and was nominated for an Emmy for Best Costume Design. Let’s do this!

 

In case you missed them, check out recaps part onetwo, and three!

All kinds of random characters are introduced. I faithfully screencap them, assuming they are going to be important down the road. They are not. I delete the screencaps if they are boys and not wearing anything exciting.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

For example: These are royalists plotting against Napoleon. We’re supposed to care even though they get dropped.

Napoleon is going to be First Consul, making this 1799. He takes Josephine to the Tuileries palace and tells her they’re moving in. She’s worried this is All Too Much.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

This woman is allergic to long sleeves.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

That’s not a great fit. I do like the standing collar.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

I DON’T NEED TO SEE SEXYTIMES BETWEEN THESE TWO. Also note ridiculous back-opening shirt on Napoleon.

Napoleon and Josephine are throwing an Official Ball! Napoleon is annoyed at the skimpy dresses all the ladies are wearing and insists his servants keep building up the fires. Someone throws a rock through the window with an anti-Napoleonic slogan. Josephine worries but Napoleon is unfazed.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Extras arriving.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

It’s not just that the dresses are skimpy, but that the dancers are pulling them up to their knees! Napoleon has a point!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Therese is keeping it Grecian, Josephine is in some kind of black and orange sparkly Halloween gown … with cold shoulders.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story
Portrait of Josephine de Beauharnais by François Gérard, 1801, Hermitage Museum

The real Josephine was a fashion icon for a reason, and that didn’t involve cold shoulders or garish colors | Portrait of Josephine de Beauharnais by François Gérard, 1801, Hermitage Museum

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Yes they were into Grecian, but this just reads 1970s to me.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

NAPOLEON GETS A NEW SUIT.

Napoleon snubs Therese, telling Josephine that her friend is slutty.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Therese is wearing history’s first double-sided boob tape.

In possibly my favorite sartorial moment of the entire series, Talleyrand is hanging with his mistress, Catherine Grand, who is dressed like Regency Malibu Barbie. Napoleon tells Talleyrand he should marry her, not for romantic reasons, but just because it’s how Napoleon wants things organized. Talleyrand proposes, and at first Catherine thinks he’s joking.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

THE PEACH FABRIC. THE COLD SHOULDER. THE SILVER LAME WRAP. THE PINK FEATHER. THE RINGLETS!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

I COULDN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF IT.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Also THE TAN.

bain de soleil ad
Portrait of Catherine Worlée, Princesse de Talleyrand-Périgord by François Gérard, 1804-05, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, the real Catherine Grand wasn’t insane and didn’t dress like she was | Portrait of Catherine Worlée, Princesse de Talleyrand-Périgord by François Gérard, 1804-05, via Wikimedia Commons

Hortense wanders through with her (new) dog. Louis Bonaparte is hot to trot, not realizing who she is. He tries to flirt, she offers some excellent Bonaparte insults, and finally Josephine explains who she is.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Louis has some nice embroidery, Hortense is rocking the shade of pink I loved at age 8.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

PUPPER.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

At least she’s figured out how to put her hair up?

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Sparkly embroidery!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Hortense has embroidery on her dress too.

Louis wants to marry Hortense. At first Napoleon isn’t into it, until Josephine points out that it will join her blood with his blood.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Holy crap, long sleeves!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

This is not bad!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Talleyrand does some scheming with another guy while their wives hang.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

These two have gone FULL BABY HUEY.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story
Baby huey

In case I’ve confused you, here is Baby Huey, who was a cartoon character in the 1950s.

Les Merveilleuses, after Carle Vernet, 1797

They’re actually referencing a real (exaggerated) style worn by the “Merveilleuses” who, along the the male “Incroyables,” were an aristocratic sub-culture focused on excess and luxury in 1790s France. That doesn’t make that bonnet a flattering shape, although props for doing one of the weirder styles | Les Merveilleuses, after Carle Vernet, 1797

Napoleon, Josephine, and Hortense are busy getting ready to go to the opera. We learn through dialogue that Hortense and Louis are married. Josephine is taking forever to get ready, so she tells Napoleon to go ahead without her, and they’ll meet there.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Unnecessary cold shoulder, but I don’t hate this! It’s delicate and pretty.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Hortense, on the other hand, is wearing hideous powder blue with stupid puffy sleeves and pearls.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

The underdeveloped royalists plan to blow up Napoleon’s carriage as he passes through a particular square. After various allegedly suspenseful carriage sequences, they fail. Napoleon swears he will get revenge.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

This poor mob cap gets blown up in the process, however.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Both Josephine and Hortense have pretty opera capes, but they go by too fast to screencap except for this. Look at those cartridge pleats and the dramatic standing collar!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story
1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Hortense’s cape is made of suspiciously shiny fabric.

Afterwards … Napoleon casually asks Josephine who might be responsible for the bomb. She suggests the royalist guy above. Napoleon storms out to take his revenge … which is then dropped (unless maybe I spaced out?).

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

More of the comparatively-pretty dress.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

I think I’m just so relieved about the lack of puffed sleeves.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

While hanging out in bed, Napoleon casually drops that he’s going to make himself emperor. Josephine worries.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Holy shit, an actually properly front-opening shirt!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Lecturing Napoleon in a frilly nightie.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

IT’S CORONATION TIME, BABY! First, Josephine meets with the pope and tells him she’s worried that because she and Napoleon were married in a civil ceremony, many don’t see their marriage as legitimate. The pope says “okay then let’s do this!” and marries them.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Alright, I like the standing lace and that tiara is stunning!

Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

The tiara she wears in David’s painting is similar | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

Empress Josephine's coronation tiara

But here’s the real deal. Granted, they didn’t have AliExpress when this was filmed | Empress Josephine’s coronation tiara

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Next up, the coronation! Which happened in 1804. This was the specific episode that got the Emmy nomination, and okay, I can see why.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Everyone is dressed to the nines!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Lots of guys in sparkly court wear.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Napoleon’s suit is for sale, and if you click through you can see many more images in very high resolution. I’m actually quite impressed.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

That’s some nice goldwork!

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Talleyrand has an excellent collar | (C) Tony Frank

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Honestly, color me impressed, because compare this with…

Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

David’s painting of the occasion | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Napoleon in embroidered satin and an ermine cloak.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Josephine in her coronation gown, flanked by ladies-in-waiting.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Embroidered satin and velvet | Photo by Michel Lipchitz/AP/Shutterstock (7338838a)

Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

David’s painting of the coronation | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

Jean Louis Charles Pauquet after Jean-Baptiste Isabey , Grand Habit de sa Majesté l'Imperatrice Josephine le jour du Couronnement, National Library of Spain

While there are several solo/front-facing portraits of Josephine in her coronation robes, the dresses in each are slightly different from the David painting/each other. This print was released on the day of the coronation, and even still I can see differences. Nonetheless, it’s the closest and thus we’ll use it for comparison | Jean Louis Charles Pauquet after Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Grand Habit de sa Majesté l’Imperatrice Josephine le jour du Couronnement, National Library of Spain

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

I feel like they went a bit too big on the sleeve puffs, but then I hate them in general.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

I’m not loving the pearls, which should instead be some kind of goldwork.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Where are the back straps for the red velvet train? Yes I’m nitpicking, that’s what we do during Snark Week.

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story
1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

The sleeves should be trimmed with strips of goldwork | (C) Tony Frank

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

One of the Bonaparte sisters with Therese, whose metallic is awfully shiny.

Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

Looks like they’ve done belts in the TV costumes, vs. a more integral front closing piece in the painting | Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

Pauline and another sister.

Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

Compare! Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804 by Jacques-Louis David and Georges Rouget, 1805-07, Louvre Museum

1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story 1987 Napoleon and Josephine a Love Story

 

Stay tuned for the finale of Napoleon and Josephine: a Love Story tomorrow!

 

 

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11 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    For some unaccountable reason, one of Nappy’s large family, Princess Murat, is buried in Tallahassee, FL, near the university. I assume she was buried in a proper Empire winding-sheet.

    Reply
  2. Al Don

    I’m glad this series chose to forgo the ridiculous myth Napoléon snatched the crown from Pope Pius VII.

    But about this actual coronation: according to Junot’s memoirs, the quick hammering and preparation work for Notre-Dame left some loose and cracked pieces of masonry in the ceiling, some of which fell during the ceremony. One piece, “the size of a nut” fell directly on Napoléon while he was placing the crown on his head. He remained unfazed. And it seems everyone was in “ceremony” mode, so no one reacted to it. There’s a detail I’ve never seen in any movies or shows about Napoléon.

    He also despised his coronation robes and was glad to get it over with. Madame Junot saw Napoléon “check a yawn” several times throughout the ceremony. After Napoléon returned to his chambers, he ripped off his robes and threw them in various corners of the room. He is alleged to have said, “Off, off with these confounded trappings! I never passed such tedious hours before.” A different account states he said, “At last I breathe!” Either way, same sentiment.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      I’m glad this series chose to forgo the ridiculous myth Napoléon snatched the crown from Pope Pius VII.

      You spoke too soon! Of course they included that, I just didn’t happen to mention it in my recap!

      Reply
      • Al Don

        Oh no! Shakes fist at the sky

        U̶n̶f̶o̶r̶t̶u̶n̶a̶t̶e̶l̶y̶ Perhaps thankfully this episode isn’t online that I could find, unlike other episodes, so I extrapolated from the screenshots. Mea culpa.

        Reply
  3. GinaP

    I never seen so many ugly costumes in one mini-series, they are just to hideous to bear. Kudos to you Kendra for your endurance!

    Reply
  4. Aleko

    As you say, they deserve kudos for the effort they put into the coronation scene costumes. There are really only details that are snarkable. E.g. you rightly say that Josephine’s velvet train is missing its shoulder straps. I wonder if they were basing it on this surviving original here, which doesn’t have them?
    https://www.napoleon.org/en/history-of-the-two-empires/objects/madame-berengers-court-dress-and-train/
    This is odd, because other surviving ones do, and all the contemporary images do if you squint closely enough. I wonder if Mme Berenger’s one originally had them and they were cut off at some time later, perhaps to make it easier to display laid out flat, or had got damaged and didn’t look good?

    It’s almost as though there were two teams of costumiers, one that had some idea what they were doing and another that didn’t know and/or just didn’t care. (And then there’s Napoleon’s epically terrible shirt, which is in a class of its own on not-making-sense-on-any-level. It’s not even practical. Of course garments made for theatre often have inaccurate closures just so actors can make quick changes without help. But how is a back-fastening shirt ever a good idea for anyone, compared to one you can just pull on and off?)

    A few more things in descending order of relevance:

    Thanks for that portrait of Catherine Grand! I’d love to see the real thing (or a really good photo of it) because the layers of her outfit are fascinating. It looks as though there’s a loose and fairly opaque top layer from bust down to about hip level, and under that a clinging semi-translucent layer (an Invisible Petticoat? Or even tights?) and the actual skirt of the gown is as near as dammit transparent.

    Who the frack takes their DOG to an official ball???

    Looking at Anthony Perkins’ legs just made me think of Napoleon’s description of him as “nothing but shit in a silk stocking”.

    Reply
  5. Roxana

    I don’t believe I can take much more of this….
    The marriage of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense was entirely political and neither was very happy about it. They did not live happily ever after!

    Reply

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