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The Life of Emile Zola (Special Edition) (2005)

Paul Muni , Joseph Schildkraut , William Dieterle  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Muni, Joseph Schildkraut, Louis Calhern
  • Directors: William Dieterle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006HBV3W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,907 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Life of Emile Zola (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Dramatic short "The Littlest Diplomat"
  • Musical short "Romance Road"
  • Cartoon "Ain't We Got Fun"
  • Audio-only bonus: 5/8/39 Lux Radio Theater production starring Paul Muni

Editorial Reviews

Still as potently relevant today as it was in 1937, The Life of Emile Zola is a marvelously entertaining slab of Hollywood social issue-mongering. The life of the French writer is broadly sketched in the early going, but the film settles into its groove with the Dreyfus affair: the scandalous railroading of a military captain for treason, which shook France to its foundation in the 1890s. The elderly Zola's gradual involvement in the case, climaxing with his electrifying "J'accuse!" essay and subsequent trial for libel, is the heart and soul of the picture.

Warner Bros.' version of this story, directed by William Dieterle, carries over the passion (and hokum) of the previous year's Story of Louis Pasteur. It also retains that film's leading man, Paul Muni, who turns in an elaborately theatrical performance. The result was a box-office smash and three Oscars, for best picture, script, and supporting actor (Joseph Schildkraut, who plays Dreyfus). While the film occasionally creaks with Hollywood artifice, the clarion call of truth and outrage come through surprisingly strongly--indeed the film looks prescient as a warning about governments closing ranks to cover up mistakes. Mostly sidestepped is the anti-Semitic vitriol of the campaign against Dreyfus (his Jewishness is referenced only in a written report glimpsed for a moment). This is an old-fashioned barnburner that encourages the viewer to fan the flames. --Robert Horton

Product Description

The Life of Emile Zola episodically explores the career of the novelist who championed the cause of France's oppressed. Zola (Paul Muni) is a hugely successful French author who risks all his success and comfort to come to the defense of the unjustly jailed Capt. Dreyfus (Oscar winner Joseph Schildkraut). Winner of three Oscars overall-and of immense critical and popular success-this distinguished film is a must-see portrait of a life that's "a moment of the conscience of man." Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Year: 1937 Director: William Dieterle, Irving Rapper Starring: Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut, Gloria Holden, Donald Crisp, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Henry O'Neil, Morris Carnovsky, Louis Calhern.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zola's Public Confrontation - Inspiring Cinema... February 8, 2005
Freedom is often taken for granted in our technologically advancing society, as a political and social complacency seems to have been generated through an overwhelming level of obligation to professional careers and other domestic responsibilities. People are also literally crushed by an ever-growing media tsunami through cable TV, abundance of Internet news sites, and newspapers. In this depth of information the individual simply drowns, as vital information is often smudged with star-studded gossip in the non-stop news tickers. Mass information could therefore function as a form of misinformation when essential information tries to reach the light of public attention. Some of this information could be in regards to decisions politicians and other authority figures make, which could affect the rights of the people. Thus, it has become essential for people to learn how to filter information. However, in the days of Emile Zola information was usually from one, or a few sources, which often proclaimed that the information was the "truth", as it was seldom challenged, until Zola.

In the Life of Emile Zola the audience gets to experience a somewhat fictionalized story of Zola (Paul Muni). Emile Zola, a novelist and critic, frequently struggled to make a living before he wrote the successful novel Nana, which dealt with prostitution. Throughout his career he wrote several masterpieces such as Germinal and the Downfall. Each of Zola's literary contributions was heavily influenced by the social struggle of the French people, which was highly criticized by authorities. Some of his novels where even banned due to their controversial issues as they were released at the end of the 19th century.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Emile Zola: Stuffy but Stately August 30, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
In 1936, Paul Muni was on a roll. He had just won an Oscar for best actor in THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR, so it was no surprise that a year later, director William Dieterle chose him for the lead in THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA. Zola, as Muni plays him, is a man who brings to mind a stuffy but morally centered grandfather type who sees his mission in life as the only man who is willing to stand up for what is right and root out corruption and evil when all others turn away claiming one valid excuse after another.
TLEZ is your standard but exceptional Hollywood bio-movie then so popular. Typically, such films begin 'en medias res', thrusting the hero into a series of lesser adventures that prefigure his later, more heroic ones. Zola and Paul Cezanne (Vladimir Sokoloff) are two poverty-stricken friends sharing a dumpy apartment in Paris. Each dreams of using his talent, Cezanne with art, Zola with words, to shake a complacent world with the immediacy of their need to force others to re-evaluate some given bedrock assumptions. Zola is a mudracker, but he cannot find it in himself to lead the fight alone. At critical points in the movie, others step in and out of his life to fire his conscience. Zola and Cezanne meet a streetwalker, Nana, who pours out a tale of economically blighted woe, the result of which is to fire Zola's imagination to write a novel exposing the corruption of a society that allowed such otherwise decent women to go astray. The first half of the movie sets up the character of Zola as one who, when convinced of the rightness of his cause, would boldly put in print inflammatory words that more than once would place him in peril. The second half focuses on the relation that Zola had with Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jew who was a captain in the French army.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POIGNANT, POWERFUL AND EXTREMELY ENRICHING! February 1, 2005
By Nix Pix
In a lucrative and highly successful career that saw him play everyone from Spanish savior, Juarez to a cutthroat gangster in Scarface, character chamelion Paul Muni became French novelist Emile Zola in "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937). This is perhaps the most legitimate and faithful - certainly, the most serious and stirring - biographical film to emerge from a major Hollywood studio, and so quite unlike anything that had ever been seen on the screen until that time. Warner spared no expense in retelling Zola's early and lingering success as an author and tragic death in a house fire. Embarking in idyllic 1862's Paris with Zola's initial fame, the film delves compassionately into the morbid curiosity and imfamous trial known as the Dreyfus Affair. Encouraged by confidant and contemporary, painter Paul Cezanne (Vladamir Sokoloff) to dispell his own comfortable success and, to stand up for truth and justice, Zola decides to take on the case of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), a war hero unjustly accused of disclosing military secrets and imprisoned on Devil's Island.

There are so many powerful and haunting moments in this bio that it's hard to pinpoint exactly where its greatness derives. But it is perhaps best exemplified by the dynamic interactions between Zola and Cezanne. These lead into the beautfully realized and justly celebrated court room summation that, once seen, is not to be forgotten.

"There are times when the most courageous thing is to be cowardly" exclaims Zola...indeed. The quiet rectitude of "The Life of Emile Zola" is a distinct pleasure for classic cinema fans - neither embellished or flag waving, but just as emotionally satisfying and twice as likely to be championed well into the next century.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by ALLAN ROTHMAN
Really enjoyed it. It is a great historical resource. My daughter is a performing arts major and she had to do some research on Emile Zola. We both watched the movie. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Carol Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing movie.
This is really good movie and what's fascinating to me is that if you look up in the encyclopedia you will see the pictures of these guys involved in this scandal - the casting was... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dr. Larmeister
5.0 out of 5 stars Academy Award winner!
Bought this film because it's an Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1937. Had to add it to my collection.
Published 3 months ago by Glenn R. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (Soecial Edition)
Another great performance by Muni, great direction and production values. If you do not know French history this may not help you much concerning Zola and where he stands. Read more
Published 4 months ago by James R. Morrella
4.0 out of 5 stars good film
Paul Muni does a great job of this.
Concentrates a bit too long on Dreyfus.
Should have had more on Cezanne and Provencal.
Published 5 months ago by bob phoenix
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 Thumbs Up
Paul Muni was a great actor and this is a great movie production. We just do not have actors and Directors like this anymore.
Published 6 months ago by Harry Steltmann
4.0 out of 5 stars Great period piece
The overly romanticized story of Emile Zola's fight for Dreyfus seems dated but knowing it was made decades ago softens the blow. Read more
Published 6 months ago by James J. Stark
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, old movie
I recently read one on Emile Zola's books therefore I wanted to learn more about the author. The movie was a perfect way to learn about his life. I thought it was great.
Published 7 months ago by Sally Harrington
4.0 out of 5 stars Occasionally Clunky but Often Great
Biographical movies have always been popular, but seldom has such an unexpected individual been portrayed on the screen, especially under the Hollywood production code. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Gary F. Taylor
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