5.7/10
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Jefferson in Paris (1995)

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »

Director:

James Ivory

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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Nolte ... Thomas Jefferson
Gwyneth Paltrow ... Patsy Jefferson
Estelle Eonnet Estelle Eonnet ... Polly Jefferson
Thandie Newton ... Sally Hemings
Seth Gilliam ... James Hemings
Todd Boyce ... William Short
Nigel Whitmey Nigel Whitmey ... John Trumbull
Nicolas Silberg Nicolas Silberg ... Monsieur Petit
Catherine Samie ... Cook
Lionel Robert Lionel Robert ... Cook's Helper
Stanislas Carré de Malberg ... Surgeon
Jean Rupert Jean Rupert ... Surgeon
Yvette Petit Yvette Petit ... Dressmaker
Paolo Mantini Paolo Mantini ... Hairdresser
Frédéric van den Driessche ... Mutilated Officer (as F. van den Driessche)
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Storyline

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old slave Sally Hemings. JEFFERSON IN PARIS follows Jefferson to France (as the U.S. ambassador to the court of Louis XVI), following the death of his wife his friendships and flirtations with the French, his relationship with his daughters and slaves from home (especially Sally), against the backdrop of the beginning of the French Revolution. Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature theme, some images of violence and a bawdy puppet show | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

31 March 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Jefferson em Paris See more »

Filming Locations:

France See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$61,349, 31 March 1995, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,474,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Christopher Reeve was considered by director James Ivory to play Jefferson, but studio pushed for the more bankable Nick Nolte for the lead. See more »

Goofs

When Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris, Louis XVI was still a 31-year old king and not a 63-year old Michael Lonsdale. See more »

Quotes

Thomas Jefferson: I kept having a debate between my head and my heart.
Maria Cosway: Which in your case, the head always wins.
Thomas Jefferson: Not this time. My poor head was simply whirled around by my unruly heart.
Maria Cosway: Oh-dear-God.
Thomas Jefferson: It kept telling me I love the lady and will continue to love her forever. If she were on one side of the globe and I on the other, I would pierce through the whole mass of the world to reach her.
See more »


Soundtracks

Mormora, ITALIAN SONGS FOR VOICE & HARP
Written by Maria Cosway
Performed by Mary Nichols (alto) and Jan Walters (harp)
See more »

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User Reviews

I don't have a problem with accepting the affair
17 December 2002 | by jbuck_919See all my reviews

I love this movie, because I am a complete sucker for movies set in the 18th century, and this is exceptionally well done. Nick Nolte is the most extremely unlikely choice to play Jefferson, but somehow he and the director make it work. The extensive selections from Jefferson's letters as he watches things unravel in France add a great deal to the entertainmnet value.

Most people think that TJ signed the Constitution, when in fact he was US ambassador to France. From a costume point of view and in terms of certain vignettes, this movie does a marvelous job of debunking that notion.

Now to the Sally Hemmings thing. DNA evidence does not lie, and it is now clear that he did indeed father her children. But I have a problem, and I'm not sure if there is any historical resolution to it. In the movie, she is a "massah, how's you feelin' today" type slave. I'm willing to accept that they fell mutually in love, but I'm still having a hard time dealing with her not having more class. It is a mistake to believe that slaves of relatively enlightened owners (yes, folks, I know what I'm saying) had no sophistication.

Dumas Malone, the great biographer of Jefferson, would go into an apoplexy if you raised the possibility of this affair being real. Now that we know that it was, I might be his unworthy successor in suggesting that a man like Jefferson would not simply take a steppinfetchit slave girl to his bed, but would rather seek comfort in the arms of someone whom he could respect, however questionable the situation looks in a modern light.


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