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The Life of Emile Zola (1937)



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The Life of Emile Zola brings to life an inspirational account of Emile Zola's defense of Alfred Dreyfus, first the victim of a wrongful charge of espionage and then of the government's efforts to cover for itself. Despite the title, other aspects of Zola's life are muted, but the details -- his early friendship with Paul Cezanne and the beginnings of his controversial writing career -- flesh out the picture, giving the story context and the characters motivation. They also serve to show how real Zola was, not a mysterious great man but simply a man with convictions and the gumption to speak out against injustice. Paul Muni, barely recognizable behind makeup and facial hair, is charismatic and utterly convincing as Zola. He earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts, and the film won Best Picture for 1937.