The Life of Emile Zola
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The Life of Emile Zola
The second of Paul Muni's biographical films for Warner Bros., the Oscar-winning The Life of Emile Zola is by far the best, even allowing for the dramatic license taken with the material. When first we meet French novelist and essayist Zola, he is starving in a Parisian garret with his painter friend, Paul Cezanne. Each time Zola attempts to write "the truth," he is stymied by governmental censors. Still, he is able to achieve both fame and fortune with the publication of "Nana," an unardorned and best-selling tale of a prostitute (whom we can safely assume was not… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Last week Warner Brothers released a movie which is probably the outstanding prestige picture of the season. It is also one of the best shows."
‑ , TIME Magazine
"Carefully mounted, well directed and acted, but basically the sort of well-meaning pap out of which Oscars are made."
‑ Geoff Andrew, Time Out
"Stacks up well against many a film biography of the subsequent three-quarters of a century."
‑ Donald J. Levit, ReelTalk Movie Reviews
"One of Warner's earnest biopics of great men, with good acting from Paul Muni in the lead and Joseph Schildkraut who won a Supporting Actor Oscar as the wrongly accused Captain Alfred Dreyfus"
‑ Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com
"The Life of Emile Zola may seem somewhat dated today, its methods and manner a little old-fashioned, and its style rather quaint."
‑ Matt Bailey, Not Coming to a Theater Near You
"The film is destined to box office approval of the most substantial character. It is finely made and merits high rating as cinema art and significant recognition as major showmanship."
‑ John C. Flinn Sr., Variety
"A great and valuable and stirring film document."
‑ Frank S. Nugent, New York Times
"A piece of pap."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
"A recurring theme among Oscar winners, Life of Emile Zola's anti-oppression topic rings loudly in the ears of all those who would use war as an excuse to abridge freedoms."
‑ Wesley Lovell, Cinema Sight
"If you sit down to watch The Life of Emile Zola, skip the first third of the movie, because frankly, the beginning blows goats."
‑ Matt Easterbrook, Matt's Movie Reviews
"This act of altruism on behalf of the brothers Warner was rewarded with the best picture Oscar for 1937; it isn't so much bad as utterly, magisterially bland."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"It's a compelling film that demands no previous knowledge of the title character in order to derive satisfaction from the story."
‑ James Berardinelli, ReelViews
"A moving evocation of an era and a heroic deed."
‑ David Parkinson, Empire Magazine
"The patchy, overly earnest screenplay as well as the typically shapeless direction of William Dieterle keep calcifying the movie into an arid diorama."
‑ Nick Davis, Nick's Flick Picks
"Along with George Arliss, Paul Muni was Hollywood's designated portrayer of Great Men."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
More reviews for The Life of Emile Zola on Rotten Tomatoes