THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (William Dieterle, 1937)

One of the best, most engrossing and impassioned films to win a best picture Oscar, William Dieterle’s The Life of Emile Zola focuses on author-activist Zola and Alfred Dreyfus, the Army artillery officer who was wrongly accused of passing secrets to the German Embassy and whose cause Zola championed. Dreyfus, found guilty, was condemned to […]


Paul Muni claimed his signature role and gave his most brilliant performance as James Allen in Mervyn LeRoy’s hard-hitting I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, one of Warner Bros.’s 1930s social melodramas targeting U.S. injustice. This American Les misérables of the South chronicles Allen’s pilgrim’s progress as the jobless veteran is wrongly convicted […]

BLACK FURY (Michael Curtiz, 1935)

Controversy surrounding Black Fury kept Warner Bros. from promoting its brilliant star for a best actor Oscar nomination; but Paul Muni was unofficially nominated anyhow, by Academy voters, who gave Muni as a write-in candidate the second highest total of votes.* ** *** He is indeed immense—initially boisterous, ultimately heartrending and fiercely righteous—as coal miner […]

THE GOOD EARTH (Sidney Franklin, Sam Wood, Victor Fleming, Gustav Machatý, 1937)

The specious, superficial nature of The Good Earth, an extravagant production from Hollywood’s “golden age,” can be attributed to the impersonality of executive producer Irving Thalberg, who died at 37 prior to the film’s release, and principal director Sidney Franklin. Pearl S. Buck, the author of the persistently popular 1931 novel on which the film […]