The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Not Rated  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  2 October 1937 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 4,565 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.



(screen play), (screen play), 4 more credits »
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Won 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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


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


Here Is True Greatness ! See more »


Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

2 October 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Emile Zolas liv  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Latin on Zola's mansion's fireplace hearth, seen twice, is "Nulla Dies Sine Linea": "No Day Without a Line". See more »


When 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 »


Émile Zola: What does it matter if an individual is shattered - if only justice is resurrected?
See more »


Referenced in The Majestic (2001) See more »


La Marseillaise
(1792) (uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Variations often in the score
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User Reviews

This is a movie that defines the biopic
27 December 2000 | by (Houston, TX) – See all my reviews

Paul Muni, one of the five best actors EVER, is magnificent in recreating the life of one of France's most controversial literary figures. Zola reveals every facet of the great man's complex personality and personal successes and learning experiences in a manner that delivers rare insights and consummate entertainment to the audience at the same time. The supporting cast and the direction match Muni's magnificence to the best of their abilities every step of the way. I recommend this as one of the great forgotten films of all time.

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