Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Starring Paul Muni & Gloria Holden

Rating 8/10

Film magnifique! C’est un film épique rempli de vérité au coeur. Paul Muni donne une exécution merveilleuse comme Emile Zola.

And now in English. I was just carried away into the Parisian life and the world of Babelfish; veuillez m’excuser. What I said was this is a magnificent film. This is an epic film with truth at the centre. Paul Muni gives a fantastic performance as Emile Zola.

The Life of Emile Zola is based on a true story. Emile Zola was a famous french author and all ’round trouble maker. His passion for justice drives him to shed light on the dirty secrets of French society. And the people are not happy. At least the people in power. The film is loosely based on his life, his trials (literally) and his dedication to liberating his beloved France from the tyranny of corrupt officials.

True stories are the bomb! They are simultaneously a pleasure and an education. Like exercising the brain without knowing it! I loved Zola’s passion, humility and compassion. He is a loveable character; a powerful and intelligent Santa Claus. This movie walks you through his early life with painter Cezanne, when times were tough, to the later more prosperous years when he had earned his voice and used it at his own peril, to bring justice, even if it was for one person. That person was Alfred Dreyfus, an Army Captain unfairly convicted of treason. He is deported to the terrifying Devils Island. Years later his wife begs Zola to take up his cause to set him free for the sake of an honest and free France.

The production of The Life of Emile Zola is impressive. I loved the writing, acting and the story overall. The performances, thankfully, lacked the melodrama of past Oscar winners. This is a noble story; a timeless one that will inspire you to fight for justice against all the odds. Though it didn’t span continents or large periods of time, this is an epic film full of courage, despair, corruption and ultimately, victory. Viva la France!!!!

The Life of Emile Zola Trivia:

  • Budget – Nearly $700,000
  • This film was shot backwards, meaning Muni’s beard was first grown then slowly darkened as the shoot progressed. Makes you want to watch the movie backwards, does it not?
  • In 1936 Paul Muni won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Story of Louis Pasteur. He was nominated for Zola but was pipped at the post by Spencer Tracey in Captains Courageous.
  • Favourite quotes: Zola says to Cezanne, “Paul, will you write?”, Reply: ” No, but I will remember.” / Zola – “The truth is on the march and nothing will stop it.”
  • According to, the following are the forgivable historical inaccuracies of this glorious film:
  1. The fact that Dreyfuss was a jew was glossed over.
  2. Some names of military and government officials were ommitted fearing lawsuits and the like from their relatives (some names were used, others referred to as Chief of staff, Minister for War)
  3. Dreyfuss was not freed in 1902, rather he was retried and found guilty again, then released in 1906, poor lad
  4. Dreyfuss lived until 1935, the last survivor of a torrid chapter in French history

    The real Dreyfus

The Real Emile Zola

If you have trouble finding this film, look on ebay. You can get it for a song! Make mine Francais!!

For the next film, prepare your sides to be sore. Yes, I’m talking comedy. You Can’t Take it With You (1938) stars Lionel Barrymore and James Stewart. Let’s see if it can make us LOL!


One comment on “Best Picture – The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

  1. Melanie Gleason
    May 20, 2013

    Great review! Just watched it tonight myself, here’s my take:

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