Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Life Of Emile Zola (1937)

The writer Emile Zola (Paul Muni) struggles with his friend the artist Paul Cezanne (Vladimir Sokoloff) to attain some level of artistic success. A chance encounter with a prostitute (Erin O'Brien Moore) produces the best seller NANA and he is on his way as one of France's most renowned writers. But perhaps his greatest achievement is his involvement in "The Dreyfus Affair". Directed by William Dieterle, this is a forerunner of the films we refer to today as "Oscar bait". It's bloated, self conscious and dealing with an important issue so of course it won the 1937 Oscar for best film of the year! The focus of the film and it takes about half of the running time is the libel trial when Zola accuses the French Army of a cover up and the prosecution of an innocent man (Joseph Schildkraut in an Oscar winning performance). It's the most interesting aspect of the film. Muni's performance is just awful. Full of tics and mannerisms and acting with a capital A. Difficult to believe he was an example of an actor's actor back in the 1930s. The actual Dreyfus case is a fascinating example of injustice, anti-Semitism (which the film doesn't address) and military corruption but the film focuses too much on Zola. With Gale Sondergaard, Donald Crisp, Gloria Holden, Louis Calhern and Harry Davenport.

No comments:

Post a Comment