Rotten Tomatoes

Movies / TV

    Celebrity

      No Results Found

      View All
      Movies Tv shows Shop News Showtimes

      The Life of Emile Zola

      Released Oct 2, 1937 1h 56m Biography List
      92% Tomatometer 73 Reviews 74% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings After struggling to establish himself, author Emile Zola (Paul Muni) wins success writing about the unsavory side of Paris and settles into a comfortable upper-class life. However, Zola's complacency is shaken when Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut) is imprisoned for being a spy. Realizing that Dreyfus is an innocent victim of anti-Semitism, Zola boldly pens a newspaper article exposing the truth, is charged with libel and must defend himself in a dramatic courtroom testimony. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

      Where to Watch

      The Life of Emile Zola

      Fandango at Home Prime Video

      Rent The Life of Emile Zola on Fandango at Home, Prime Video, or buy it on Fandango at Home, Prime Video.

      The Life of Emile Zola

      What to Know

      Critics Consensus

      Urgently relevant in an era of escalating bigotry and fascism, The Life of Emile Zola is a respectful and staid tribute to the French novelist, enlivened by Paul Muni's chameleonic prowess.

      Read Critics Reviews

      Critics Reviews

      View All (73) Critics Reviews
      Alan Page Sight & Sound Muni is, in fact, the whole film, with the exception of one small section that Joseph Schildkraut, as Dreyfus, firmly claims for his own. Muni is superb. Every gesture, every line is put over with immense care and artistry. Aug 3, 2022 Full Review Mildred Martin Philadelphia Inquirer Like The Story of Louis Pasteur, though perhaps lacking some of that film's warmth and appeal, "Zola" is a serious, carefully constructed, elaborately produced biography. In addition, it paints a period in colors both somber and brilliant. Aug 3, 2022 Full Review Mae Tinee Chicago Tribune This new Muni production is a masterpiece. It is a skillful, intuitive, intensely sympathetic portrayal of a great and eccentric man, with action characterized by mounting suspense and moments of powerful drama. Aug 3, 2022 Full Review Pare Lorentz McCall's It’s a grave story told with great dignity and superbly played and produced. Oct 30, 2023 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy Army intrigue and courtroom theatrics are just some of the savory ingredients in this compelling film. Rated: 3.5/4 Sep 8, 2023 Full Review Yasser Medina Cinefilia I find it a rather moving Dieterle biopic about injustice, honesty and the value of truth, which deposits its greatest dramatic card in Paul Muni's uplifting performance as the great Émile Zola. [Full review in Spanish] Rated: 7/10 Aug 20, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (144) audience reviews
      Matheus F Beautiful. Irreplaceable. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 10/01/23 Full Review CodyZamboni This movie is deserving of all the Oscars. Sharp, literate screenplay, with stellar acting by Muni, tracing Zola's life from humble beginnings, to fame and riches, and standing up against French military injustice. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 07/27/23 Full Review Mark A Great biography! Paul Muni is fantastic. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 01/03/23 Full Review Audience Member In 1937, The Life of Emile Zola was nominated for the largest number of awards, ten. The movie won three including Best Picture. However, sadly and in some ways shamefully, this film has been ridiculed for being dated today, it's ways and means a little obsolete, and it's style rather unusual. That is downright unjust! The style which is portrayed in this remarkable seventy year old film is quite conventional. The dialogue is perhaps overwritten, but the powerful story is there, and the story line is enhanced by intelligent dialogue to say the least, as well as, first rate performances by an excellent cast, preferably Paul Muni (giving possibly his best performance) as Emile Zola and supported well by Joseph Schildkraut as Dreyfus. Not to mention, the film is technically excellent. Editing, costuming, lighting - without doubt, and all the production values stand up beautifully even several decades later. Sure it's a fictionalized version of the life of the great French writer Emile Zola, however, great fiction can make a great film and that is the case with The Life of Emile Zola. One may forget that this film was released in 1937 when anti-Semitism was again sweeping the continent of Europe, and for that very reason, the word "Jew" is never mentioned and we are only given a short visual reference. To avoid lawsuits from their descendants, only Major Dort and Major Esterhazy names were specifically identified. Others are referred to as the Chief of Staff, the Minister of War, etc. Also, Dreyfus 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. These historical errors can be forgiven, because it's the films message which stands and given the current climate, the movie's message is all the more important. The shifting focus of this film doesn't make it a frustrating experience for modern viewers. In fact, the film flows quite nicely: struggling writer, gets in trouble for his book, then the film follows Zola's success as he becomes a powerful force in society. Eventually we get to 1894, where many claim the film to zoom away from its subject, where the film begins to focus on Dreyfus. With that being said, if you sit down to watch The Life of Emile Zola, don't skip the first third of the movie, because it's every bit as moving and powerful as the dramatic court scene, most notably in the unforgettable self-defense scene in which Muni delivers an outstanding performance. Unfortunately, had Muni not won the previous year for another biopic, The Story of Louis Pasteur, he would have received the Oscar for his portrayal of Zola. Muni was not only nominated for an Oscar for this role but also received awards from many critics groups. Today many dismiss the significant talent of Muni (one of films first devoted actors), however, one cannot deny he had a great deal with elevating the art of film acting. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review william d Wonderful movie, both Muni and Schildkraut give outstanding performances. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Ken R The Life Of Emile Zola – Grand Classic This Award-winning classic 1937 drama could be seen to be a typical bio but it's much more than that. Paul Muni's astounding courtroom recitation of Zola's famous plea for justice in the infamous Dreyfus case is a must-see, Oscar-winning motion picture experience. It reminds us of the importance of utmost honesty and accountability for the actions of all government and military leaders throughout the world. The performances of the large and exemplary cast, do full justice to this powerful comment on social and moral corruption in late 19th century France. While the film's script may sidestep the key issue of racial injustice, there is no doubt left to the astute modern viewer as to what perversity is at play here. The direction of German William Dieterle keeps the momentum building to its historical conclusion and is of the first order. Tony Gaudio's terrific B/W cinematography captures all the scope and grandeur of these dramatic events while Max Steiner's full-scale music score underlines the emotional turbulence. Black banned Polish actor Morris Carnovsky has a fine role as a supporter of Zola and superbly delivers the stirring courtroom summery that closes this powerful production. Some of the history may not always stack up but when does it ever in bio-pics? What it does do well, is highlight the shocking injustices that exist when guilty people, in high places, collude to subvert truth! Don't miss this one. The Warner Archive DVD while not as good as some others, is quite good but does have some subsonic hum in the audio of certain scenes, it's hoped they may soon correct this at some stage. This was my second copy so unfortunately, it has been this way for some time, pity. But, great Motion Picture. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 04/22/21 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

      90% 76% The Story of Louis Pasteur 75% 75% Rembrandt 80% % Cardinal Richelieu 71% 48% Juarez 86% 85% The Scarlet Empress Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

      Movie Info

      Synopsis After struggling to establish himself, author Emile Zola (Paul Muni) wins success writing about the unsavory side of Paris and settles into a comfortable upper-class life. However, Zola's complacency is shaken when Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut) is imprisoned for being a spy. Realizing that Dreyfus is an innocent victim of anti-Semitism, Zola boldly pens a newspaper article exposing the truth, is charged with libel and must defend himself in a dramatic courtroom testimony.
      Director
      William Dieterle
      Producer
      Henry Blanke
      Screenwriter
      Matthew Josephson, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg, Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg
      Distributor
      Warner Bros.
      Production Co
      Warner Brothers
      Genre
      Biography
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Oct 2, 1937, Wide
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Jan 1, 2009
      Runtime
      1h 56m
      Sound Mix
      Mono
      Aspect Ratio
      Flat (1.37:1)
      Most Popular at Home Now