The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola

Paul Muni
Director: William Dieterle, Irving Rapper Cast: Paul Muni
Paul Muni
, Gloria Holden
Gloria Holden
William Dieterle, Irving Rapper,


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The second of Paul Muni's biographical films for Warner Bros., the Oscar-winning The Life of Emile Zola is by far the best, even allowing for the dramatic license taken with the material. When first we meet French novelist and essayist Zola, he is starving in a Parisian garret with his painter friend, Paul Cezanne. Each time Zola attempts to write "the truth," he is stymied by governmental censors. Still, he is able to achieve both fame and fortune with the publication of "Nana," an unardorned and best-selling tale of a prostitute (whom we can safely assume was not quite as likeable or attractive as Erin O'Brien-Moore, who plays the novel's "role model"). The lion's share of the film is devoted to Zola's attempts to clear the reputation of Army captain Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), who has been framed on a charge of treason by his superiors and condemned to Devil's Island. Publishing his famous manifesto "J'accuse," Zola leaves himself wide open for public condemnation and criminal prosecution. Though he delivers a brilliant self-defense in court, Zola is found guilty. Forced to flee to England, he continues railing against the unjust, corrupt military establishment, eventually forcing a retrial and exoneration of Dreyfus. Alas, Zola is killed in a freak accident at home before he can meet the liberated Dreyfus. At his funeral, Emile Zola is eulogized by Anatole France (Morris Carnovsky), who refers to the fallen crusader as "a moment of the conscience of man." For various reasons -- some dramatic, some legal -- the actual facts of "L'affaire Dreyfus" are altered by the Norman Reilly Raine/Heinz Herald/Geza Herczeg screenplay. The fact that Dreyfus was railroaded because he was Jewish is obscured; in fact, except for a very brief visual reference, the word "Jew" is never mentioned. Only those villains whose names were a matter of public record (Major Dort, Major Esterhazy) are specifically identified. Others are referred to as the Chief of Staff, the Minister of War, etc. to avoid lawsuits from their descendants (remember that the events depicted in the film, most of which take place between 1894 and 1902, were still within living memory in 1937). As for Dreyfus himself, he was not freed and restored to rank in 1902, the year of Zola's death, but in 1906-after being found guilty again in an 1899 retrial (Dreyfus died in 1935, outliving everyone else involved in the case). These historical gaffes can be forgiven in the light of the film's overall message: that a single small, clear voice can fight City Hall. If for nothing else, The Life of Emile Zola deserves classic status due to Paul Muni's towering performance, most notably in the unforgettable summation scene: "By all that I have done for France, by my works -- by all that I have written, I swear to you that Dreyfus is innocent. May all that melt away -- may my name be forgotten, if Dreyfus is not innocent. He is innocent."

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Product Details

Release Date: 02/01/2005
UPC: 0012569692527
Original Release: 1937
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Home Video
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Full Frame]
Time: 1:56:00
Sales rank: 28,585

Special Features

Closed Caption; 3 vintage vault treasures: Dramatic short The Littlest Diplomat, musical short Romance Road and cartoon Ain't We Got Fun; Audio-only bonus: 5/8/39 Lux Radio Theater production starring Muni; Theatrical trailer; Subtitles: English, Français & Español

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Muni Emile Zola
Gloria Holden Alexandrine Zola
Gale Sondergaard Lucie Dreyfus
Joseph Schildkraut Capt. Alfred Dreyfus
Robert Warwick Maj. Henry
Donald Crisp Maitre Labori
Robert H. Barrat Maj. Walsin-Esterhazy
Henry O'Neill Col. Picquart
Harry Davenport Chief of Staff
Ralph Morgan Commander of Paris
Frank Mayo Mathieu Dreyfus
Paul Everton Assistant Chief of Staff
Gilbert Emery Minister of War
Marcia Mae Jones Helen Richards
Frank Sheridan Van Cassell
Morris Carnovsky Anatole France
Vladimir Sokoloff PaulCezanne
Grant Mitchell Georges Clemenceau
Montagu Love Cavaignac
Louis Calhern Maj. Dort
Charles Richman Monsieur Delagorgue
Dickie Moore Pierre Dreyfus
Robert Cummings Gen. Gillian
Rolla Gourvitch Jeanne Dreyfus
Harry Worth Lieutenant
Erin O'Brien-Moore Nana
John Litel Charpentier
Walter Kingsford Col. Sandherr
Lumsden Hare Mr. Richards
Florence Roberts Madame Zola
Moroni Olsen Capt. Guignet
Frank Reicher M. Perrenx
David Cross Senator Scheurer-Kestner
William Von Brincken Schwartzkoppen
Pierre Watkin Prefect of Police
Iphigenie Castiglioni Madame Charpentier
Arthur Aylesworth Chief Censor
Egon Brecher Brucker
Frank Darien Albert
Holmes Herbert Commander of Paris
Paul Irving La Rue
Alexander Leftwich Maj. D'Aboville

Technical Credits
William Dieterle Director
Irving Rapper Director
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
Henry Blanke Producer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Tony Gaudio Cinematographer
Anton Grot Art Director
Heinz Herald Original Story,Screenwriter
Geza Herczeg Original Story,Screenwriter
Ali Hubert Costumes/Costume Designer
Warren Low Editor
Norman Reilly Raine Screenwriter
Max Steiner Score Composer
Perc Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:11]
2. A Job for Emile [3:57]
3. Official Warning [2:59]
4. Injustice All Around [3:03]
5. Nana's Story [4:20]
6. Nana's Profits [4:05]
7. The Downfall [3:06]
8. Defying the Censor [2:10]
9. Cezanna's Goodbye [5:39]
10. Traitor in Their Midst [4:47]
11. Arrested for Treason [6:16]
12. "I'm Innocent!" [5:39]
13. You Must Survive [3:34]
14. Military Maneuvers [3:35]
15. Lucio Appeals to Zola [7:09]
16. I Accuso [2:59]
17. Inflaming the Mob [2:13]
18. On Trial [1:56]
19. Picquart Testifies [3:39]
20. Written and Spoken [4:43]
21. Intolerance All Around [3:09]
22. Let Truth Conquer [6:57]
23. Another Closed Case [6:44]
24. Honor of the Army [3:03]
25. Homecomings to France [4:09]
26. By Force of Ideas [4:05]
27. Moment of Conscious [4:03]
28. Cast List [5:58]

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