CinemaLit: The Life of Emile Zola | Mechanics' Institute

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CinemaLit: The Life of Emile Zola
Silver Screenwriting

Paul Muni was an actor known for his chameleon-like ability to transform himself, and that talent is especially evident in this fine bio-pic. It begins with Zola’s struggles as a poor writer, sharing a cold attic flat with his friend Paul Cezanne, but the film’s emphasis is on Zola’s selfless efforts, well after he had achieved wealth and fame, in exposing the false accusations of espionage against Albert Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army. Muni was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, and Joseph Schildkraut as the persecuted Dreyfus won an Oscar for best supporting actor.


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