The Life of Emile Zola

1937 film by William Dieterle / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Life of Emile Zola is a 1937 American biographical film about the 19th-century French author Émile Zola starring Paul Muni and directed by William Dieterle.

Quick facts: The Life of Emile Zola, Directed by, Screenpl...
The Life of Emile Zola
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Dieterle
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Heinz Herald
  • Geza Herczeg
Based onZola and His Time
1928 book
by Matthew Josephson
Produced byHenry Blanke
CinematographyTony Gaudio
Edited byWarren Low
Music byMax Steiner
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • August 11, 1937 (1937-08-11)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Premiere of The Life of Emile Zola at the Carthay Circle Theater (1937)

It premiered at the Los Angeles Carthay Circle Theatre to great critical and financial success. Contemporary reviews ranked it as the greatest biographical film made up to that time.

In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[1][2]

Produced during the Great Depression and after the Nazi Party had taken power in Germany, the film failed to explore the key issue of antisemitic injustice in France in the late 19th century, when Zola became involved in the Dreyfus affair and worked to gain the officer's release. Some recent studies have noted the film as an example of Hollywood's timidity at the time: antisemitism was not mentioned in the film, nor was "Jew" said in dialogue. Some explicitly anti-Nazi films were canceled in this period, and other content was modified. This was also the period when Hollywood had established the Production Code, establishing an internal censor, in response to perceived threats of external censorship.

The Life of Emile Zola became the second biographical film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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