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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.

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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:
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Maitre Labori
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Nana (as Erin O'Brien Moore)
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Charpentier
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Colonel Georges Picquart
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Anatole France
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Major Walsin-Esterhazy
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Georges Clemenceau
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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:

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Details

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Release Date:

2 October 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Story of Emile Zola  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To research his role, Paul Muni read all of Émile Zola's works, researched the entire Alfred Dreyfus affair and experimented with different types of make-up designs with the help of leading film make-up artist, Perc Westmore. See more »

Goofs

Nana is shown as the first novel Zola writes, and the first to have a popular success. In fact, Zola had written more than a dozen novels before Nana, many of which were successful. See more »

Quotes

Émile Zola: Why didn't Picquart say anything?
Lucie Dreyfus: Colonel Picquart is a good officer. He kept silent at the request of his superiors.
Émile Zola: You mean they KNEW and they ordered him to suppress the truth? Why,that's monstrous!
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Connections

Featured in The Movies March On (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
A Wonderful Life of Emile Zola ****
12 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

Marvelous historical biography of Emile Zola, splendidly played by Paul Muni.

Always for the poor person, Zola immerses himself in the Dreyfus Affair. Count Esterhazy, the guilty person, is successfully able to frame Dreyfus for passing secrets to the enemy during the Franco-Prussian War. What hurts the most is that Dreyfus, a high ranking official in the French army, was immediately condemned due to a wave of anti-semitism throughout France.

Zola shall fight for the exoneration of Dreyfus all the way. In his famous J'Accuse, he drives this goal into total action.

Joseph Schildkraut, as Dreyfus, won the best supporting actor award for his portrayal of the condemned man. You feel his hurt and ultimate triumph through every step of the way. His imprisonment at Devils Island is so realistic. His wife in all this is well played by actress Gale Sondergaard, who shed her usual evil-like performances and turned in a remarkable one as the grief stricken faithful wife of the apparently hopeless Dreyfuss.

When Dreyfus is ultimately exonerated, tragedy strikes. Zola dies accidentally from poisonous gas seeping through his home. He may be gone but his legacy would live on.


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