Best Picture Winners Part 10 (of 87): The Life of Emile Zola

Title: The Life of Emile Zola
Year: 1937
Starring: Paul Muni, Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard
Director: William Dieterle
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins

Is It Any Good?: It’s surprising! When the film began it had me worried. It seemed like a boring biopic on a fairly uninteresting guy, however as the story unfolded it transformed into a story of one man’s lifetime of searching, and maintaining the truth. Paul Muni really takes his media material to new heights and was nominated Best Actor for doing so. Muni was defending that award having won the previous year for The Story of  Louis Pasteur the award instead went to Spencer Tracy for Captains Courageous. The Life of Emile Zola is an interesting look at both the biopic, and the courtroom drama as we’ll find out, but also a great story of mass corruption and freedom fighting.
 
Memorable Quote: Emile Zola: I shall tell the truth. Because if I did not, my nights would be haunted by the specter of an innocent man expiating under the most frightful torture a crime he never committed.
 
Competition: Lacking iconoclasm, but thrilling nonetheless. While The Good Earth and A Star is Born are great films with great reputations things like the Cary Grant, Irene Dunne lead screwball comedy The Awful Truth are still brilliant pieces of cinema simply lost to the annuls of time. Captains Courageous is a good ole fashion adventure, and as stated above features the Best Actor of this year in Spencer Tracy. Bogart steals the show without being the headliner in William Wyler’s suspenseful gangster flick Dead End. Frank Capra continues stealing the show from every other director in this era with Lost Horizon. Meanwhile, a pair of leading ladies in Katherine Hepburn, and Ginger Rogers (sans Fred Astaire amazingly) bring to life Gregory La Cava’s Stage Door. On the flip, we have to not so great films in One Hundred Men and a Girl (which is probably a shared title with a different kind of film.) and the truly drudgy In Old Chicago.

 

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