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c. 1978

The ‘Les Miserables’ made-for-TV movie

'Les Mis,' '70s style

What is “Les Miserables”? A musical, right? Yes indeed. And it’s also at least six films, a radio play, a manga cartoon, a game and, in 1978, a made-for-TV movie featuring rather questionable wigs.

Originally, of course, it was Victor Hugo’s 1862 French historical novel of justice and restoration. The book that is, today, widely regarded as nothing less than one of the 19th century’s greatest novels. But back in 1862, notices were a little less favorable.

Tough crowd

Le Monde‘s review included the phrase “unconquerable disgust.” Rough, but not the worst one. Flaubert described it as “infantile.” He went further, decreeing it would end Hugo’s career, like “the fall of a god.” Refusing to be outdone, Baudelaire summed up Hugo’s creation as “Repulsive and inept.”

The Catholic Church took that as its cue, and banned the book outright. Not a big problem for Hugo who, with a hit on his hands, had nothing but his royalty checks for comfort. Royalties that still roll in to his estate, and show no signs of stopping. 

Here we see Les Miserables, ’70s style, starring Anthony Perkins and John Gielgud no less, plus a Valjean with a very gray beard. Hey, don’t knock it, the film, screened on CBS, was a big ratings success. It even beat Charlie’s Angels

Richard Jordan (as Jean Valjean) escapes into the sewers of Paris
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Timothy Morand portrays Enjolras a rebellion leader
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Holding a red folder, Glenn Jordan, Director
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A Set shot of the Barricades
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A makeup artist attends to a cast member’s mustache
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Valjean (played by Richard Jordan, right) and his young ward Cosette (played by Joanna Price) flee from the pursuing Inspector Javert
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Anthony Perkins stars as Inspector Javert
CBS via Getty Images
Behind the scenes, cast and crew
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Behind the scenes
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A Behind the scenes shot
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