Blogging Best Picture: 1937, "The Life of Emile Zola"

This biopic of the French novelist and activist not only won Best Picture in 1937, it was also nominated for nine other Oscars.  But it’s not much remembered or talked about these days, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s mostly slow going, with lots of grandiose speechifying.  Paul Muni, who was one of Warner Bros.’ biggest stars in the 1930s, was a very good actor but has had little staying power.  It’s a liberal social-problem picture, and its targets include anti-Semitism, anti-intellectualism, corruption, and obstruction of justice.  It’s also a good seventy minutes shorter than The Great Ziegfeld, for which I was grateful.  That said, it’s a film that is probably best watched while doing something else.

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