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The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  2 October 1937 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 4,219 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 29 critic

The biopic of the famous French muckraking writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair.

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Won 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Erin O'Brien-Moore ...
Nana (as Erin O'Brien Moore)
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Charpentier
Henry O'Neill ...
Morris Carnovsky ...
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Commander of Paris
Robert Barrat ...
Vladimir Sokoloff ...
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Storyline

Fictionalized account of the life of famed French author Emile Zola. As portrayed in the film, he was a penniless writer sharing an apartment in Paris with painter Paul Cezanne when he finally wrote a best-seller, Nana. He has always had difficulty holding onto a job as he is quite outspoken, being warned on several occasions by the public prosecutor that he risks charges if he does not temper his writings. The bulk of the film deals with his involvement in the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was falsely convicted of giving secret military information to the Germans and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island. Antisemitism played an important role in the real-life case but is hardly mentioned in the film. Even after the military found definitive evidence that Dreyfus was innocent, the army decided to cover it up rather than face the scandal of having arbitrarily convicted the wrong man. Zola's famous letter, J'Accuse (I Accuse), led to his own trial for libel where he was ... Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Here Is True Greatness ! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

2 October 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Emile Zolas liv  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Writers Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg initially took the project to Ernst Lubitsch at Paramount who immediately recognized the potential of the film. He also knew that Paul Muni was the only actor capable of pulling off Emile Zola but Muni was contracted to Warner Brothers at the time, so Lubitsch sold the project on to Warners. See more »

Goofs

When Erin O'Brien-Moore as Nana comes into the café from the snow, the artificial snow stays on her clothes long after real snow would have melted, then suddenly in a second it disappears with the next cut. See more »

Quotes

La Rue: We've been watching your writings, young man. You're a troublemaker! These articles of yours, attacking our leading men of letters, the arts! Criticizing the civic authorities!
Émile Zola: Perhaps you know of something better for me to criticize?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

La Marseillaise
(1792) (uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Variations often in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Paul Muni at his best in a classic barnstorming biopic
5 April 2005 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

'The Life of Emile Zola' is more about the Dreyfuss affair than the author's life – only Nana is given more than a passing nod (Germinal gets 30 seconds of screen time while the rest of his novels are dismissed in a montage of covers) while his demise is signposted from the very first scene – and it does fall prey to the usual biopic problems ("Nana, pull up a chair next to Cezanne"), but it's such terrific entertainment, who cares? Muni is great value as Zola, much like the off screen young Chaplin in the early scenes before becoming the great man of letters, where he walks the tightrope between over and underplaying, and he's given two great set piece speeches – J'accuse and his address to the court – that are foolproof crowdpleasers that he handles with relish and aplomb. It's like one of Warners' crusading social issue pictures that just happens to have been set in the late 19th century and shot on an epic scale, and it has an immediacy and sense of moral outrage that is surprisingly powerful and deeply felt and even, ultimately, quite moving. Dated, yes, but undeniably impressive stuff despite Donald Crisp's very unfortunate haircut.


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