The Life of Emile Zola Overview:

The Life of Emile Zola (1937) was a Biographical - Drama Film directed by William Dieterle and produced by Hal B. Wallis, Henry Blanke and Jack L. Warner.


Another successful Muni biopic as the French man of the letters who risked his career and freedom to stand up for an unfairly accused man. Muni stars as the French novelist Zola, who rose from scandal to national treasure, and who threw his reputation and rhetorical skill behind Alfred Dreyfus, who had been wrongly accused of treason and sent to Devil's Island. Dieterie had previously directed Muni in the historical dramas The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) and Juarez (1939).

(Source: available at Amazon AMC Classic Movie Companion).


The Life of Emile Zola was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2000.

Academy Awards 1937 --- Ceremony Number 10 (source: AMPAS)

Best ActorPaul MuniNominated
Best Supporting ActorJoseph SchildkrautWon
Best Art DirectionAnton GrotNominated
Best DirectorWilliam DieterleNominated
Best Music - ScoringWarner Bros. Studio Music Department, Leo Forbstein, head of department (Score by Max Steiner)Nominated
Best PictureWarner Bros.Won
Best WritingHeinz Herald, Geza HerczegNominated
Best WritingNorman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza HerczegWon

BlogHub Articles:

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

By Beatrice on Oct 13, 2013 From Flickers in Time

The Life of Emile Zola Directed by William Dieterle Written by Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg et al 1937/USA Warner Bros. First viewing #119 of 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die For some reason I was not wowed by this worthy, well-produced biopic. The story covers the life of... Read full article

The Life of Emile Zola

By Alyson on Jun 15, 2010 From The Best Picture Project

Here’s a quick tip: To get the most out of this film, do not read any sort of quick biography on Emile Zola. ?All you need to know for backup is that he was a writer in France speaking out against oppression in government and society. ?The film should do the rest. We first meet Zola (Paul Muni... Read full article

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Quotes from

?mile Zola:: At this solemn moment, in the presence of this tribunal, which is the representative of human justice, before France, before the whole world, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent! By all that I have won, by all that I have written to spread the spirit of France, I swear that he is innocent. May all that melt away; may my name perish if Dreyfus be not innocent. He is innocent.

?mile Zola:: I shall tell the truth. Because if I did not, my nights would be haunted by the spectre of an innocent man expiating under the most frightful torture a crime he never committed.

La Rue: We've been watching your writings, young man. You're a troublemaker! These articles of yours, attacking our leading men of letters, the arts! Criticizing the civic authorities!
?mile Zola:: Perhaps you know of something better for me to criticize?

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Facts about

Bonita Granville (Violet) is in studio records/casting call lists for this movie, but she did not appear or was not identifiable.
Due to severe flooding in Los Angeles in 1938, the presentation of the Best Picture Oscar for this movie was postponed from Thursday March 3rd to Thursday March 10, 1938. (see also - In the Heat of the Night and Raging Bull).
Early in the film, Zola burns a few books to warm his drafty apartment. When Cezanne opens the window to let out the smoke, Zola asks him to close the windows to avoid a draft. The real Emile Zola in fact died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a stopped chimney.
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Best Picture Oscar 1937

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National Film Registry

The Life of Emile Zola

Released 1937
Inducted 2000

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Also directed by William Dieterle

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Also produced by Hal B. Wallis

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Also released in 1937

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