The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola is a 1937 American biographical film about 19th-century French author Émile Zola, starring Paul Muni and directed by William Dieterle, a German émigré. It is notable as the second biographical film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It premiered at the Los Angeles Carthay Circle Theatre to great success both critically and financially. Contemporary reviews ranked it as the best biographical film made up to that time. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Set in the mid through late 19th century, the film depicts Zola's early friendship with Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, and his rise to fame through his prolific writing. It explores his involvement late in the Dreyfus affair.