Movie House Memories

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Episode #76

Warner Bros. released The Life of Emile Zola to theaters on October 2, 1937. William Dieterle directs the film which stars Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut.

The Life of Emile Zola Movie Summary

Emile Zola (Paul Muni-Nominated for Best Actor) is a struggling writer sharing an apartment in Paris with his friend, Paul Cezanne (Vladimir Sololoff). Zola is a social observer who surprisingly finds success as the author of novels about injustice. Cezanne eventually thrives as a renowned Post-Impressionist painter. Picasso and Matisse said of Cezanne, “he is the father of us all.”

When they are older and prosperous, Cezanne reminds his friend Emile to continue striving for truth and justice. Zola uses the power of his pen to help Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus (Academy Award Winner Joseph Schilkraut) who was wrongly convicted of treason. Dreyfus has been left to rot in the god-forsaken prison of Devil’s Island. Dreyfus’ wife Lucie (Gale Sondergaard) brings the case to Zola’s attention.

Even after irrefutable proof surfaces that Dreyfus is innocent and a Major Walsin-Esterhazy (Robert Barrat) was the culprit, the brass in the French Army refuse to rectify the injustice. The Army seems willing to do anything to avoid admitting their mistake. They even are willing to let the guilty Esterhazy get away with his crimes against the French Republic. The film neglects the issue of Anti-Semitism, which strongly influenced Dreyfus’ conviction.

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Warner Bros. released The Life of Emile Zola to theaters on October 2, 1937. William Dieterle directs the film which stars Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut.

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One Comment

  1. Haven’t seen this, but probably should. I’m a big fan of Captains Courageous(which won best actor that year). Are any spencer Tracy films on tap? Don’t think any have been reviewed yet.

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