The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

A very interesting film – a somewhat fictionalized biography (per the opening credits) of Emile Zola whose story I was not familiar with until now. He was a French muckraking writer in the late 19th century. The movie is primarily focused on one particular case (perhaps the most prominent of his life?) in which he is taken to trial (libel) for exposing the Army’s conviction of an innocent man for treason and its cover-up exoneration of the guilty party. Paul Muni does his usual great job (receiving a Best Actor Oscar nomination) portraying this historical figure and there are strong supporting performances by Joseph Schildkraut (who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the accused Captain Alfred Dreyfus) Gale Sondergaard as Dreyfus’s wife and the ubiquitous (and always excellent) Donald Crisp and Henry O’Neill. In addition to winning for Best Picture the movie also won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay (Heinz Herald Geza Herczeg and Norman Reilly Raine). It received several other Oscar nominations as well: Best Original Story (for Herald & Herczeg) Anton Grot’s Art Direction director William Dieterle assistant director Russell Saunders Score and Sound Recording. It was added to the National Film Registry in 2000.

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