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The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama | 2 October 1937 (USA)
The biopic of the famous French muckraking writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair.

Director:

William Dieterle

Writers:

Norman Reilly Raine (screen play), Heinz Herald (screen play) | 4 more credits »
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Won 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Muni ... Emile Zola
Gale Sondergaard ... Lucie Dreyfus
Joseph Schildkraut ... Capt. Alfred Dreyfus
Gloria Holden ... Alexandrine Zola
Donald Crisp ... Maitre Labori
Erin O'Brien-Moore ... Nana (as Erin O'Brien Moore)
John Litel ... Charpentier
Henry O'Neill ... Colonel Georges Picquart
Morris Carnovsky ... Anatole France
Louis Calhern ... Major Dort
Ralph Morgan ... Commander of Paris
Robert Barrat ... Major Walsin-Esterhazy
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Paul Cezanne
Grant Mitchell ... Georges Clemenceau
Harry Davenport ... Chief of Staff
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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

Taglines:

Here Is True Greatness ! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 October 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Story of Emile Zola See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of two Best Picture Oscar winners with a 'Z' in the title. The other one was The Great Ziegfeld (1936). See more »

Goofs

Zola is shown as not wanting to get involved in the Dreyfus Affair until he is won over by an emotional plea from Mme. Dreyfus following the Esterhazy trial. In fact, he had interested himself in the affair for some time before that and had written articles denouncing the anti-semitism that had condemned Dreyfus. See more »

Quotes

Paul Cezanne: [Farewell goodbye to Zola] I won't write, but I'll remember.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Paul Muni (1962) 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

 
Rooting for the Underdog
8 July 2013 | by carleeeeSee all my reviews

Émile is like the Julian Assange of 19th Century France, though certainly less dramatic. He comes under intense criticism as his books gain popularity and the censors are under pressure from the government and the French Army to stop them. The Dreyfus Affair was still well-known at the time of the film's release, but as a person watching for the first time 75 years later I got a little lost. I failed to see the connection between the two seemingly unrelated sub-plots and the ensuing period where there was little to no appearance of the film's namesake. This was eventually cleared up for me but the reliance on assumed knowledge was not very forward-thinking. One quibble is that the women did not seem to age, I had a similar complaint watching Cimarron; throughout the decades covered by the film Zola got older and cuddlier, Dreyfus aged even more...yet their wives hardly aged a day. I wish I knew their secret. Snaps for Joseph Schildkraut whose portrayal of Captain Alfred Dreyfus scored him an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor. It was a good film and certainly highlighted the level of corruption in France at that time, as well as rooting for the underdog. I must procure one of Zola's books and check him out.


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