Paul Muni stars as Emile Zola, giving possibly his best performance in this excellent biography of the great writer, which won three Oscars, including Best Picture. The film's most unusual aspect is its evasiveness regarding the anti-Semitism that led to the terrible injustice of the Dreyfus affair. As Neil Gabler and others have pointed out, this can probably be attributed to the reluctance of the Jewish studio moguls to incur the ire of a society in which they still didn't feel entirely accepted. The film tracks Zola's early years, including his friendship with Paul Cezanne (Vladimir Sokoloff), and his uphill battle to expose in print the social ills that plagued France's lower classes. When success arrives with the publication of NANA, he garners an audience that can appreciate his exposs of the corruption of the nation's government, military, and business community. But it's in the Herculean effort to clear Captain Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), a victim of anti-Semitism who had been framed on charges of military espionage and sent to Devil's Island, that Zola reveals in full force the tremendous courage that undergirded his achievment. High production values, an excellent cast, and an intelligent script all add to the film's extraordinary quality.
Academy Awards Best Picture 1937
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor 1937 Joseph Schildkraut Character Actor
Academy Awards Best Adapted Screenplay 1937 Norman Reilly Raine American Screenwriter
Academy Awards Best Adapted Screenplay 1937 Geza Herczeg Screenwriter
Academy Awards Best Adapted Screenplay 1937 Heinz Herald Screenwriter\1930s