Monday, 30 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1937: Joseph Schildkraut in The Life of Emile Zola

Joseph Schildkraut won his Oscar from his only Oscar nomination for portraying Captain Alfred Dreyfus in The Life of Emile Zola.

Joseph Schildkraut probably is fights Jack Palance, and Ben Johnson for the shortest performance to win an Oscar. As Captain Alfred Dreyfus first appears well into the film, and even then there is very little of him seen. He barely is even the main focuses of the scenes he is in, but nevertheless Schildkraut still makes an impact with his short performance as Dreyfus. After all although Dreyfus is a little scene character his character's troubles are the focus of the latter part of the film.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus is falsely accused and convicted of being a traitor in the French army basically because he is Jewish. Due to his limited screen time it is essential that we care for Dreyfus the moment we see him, so Schildkraut has his work cut out for him. Schildkraut meets the demands of the part and from his first scene does have a nice warm presence as Dreyfus that we can easily we sympathize with. Although it is only a glimpse, in the glimpse Schildkraut shows an honest family man who absolutely could not be guilty of anything especially not being a traitor his country.

Schildkraut brings us into Dreyfus's terrible struggle to convince people of his innocence. Schildkraut gives an entirely honest performance showing that pain, and disbelief that Dreyfus is going through. Schildkraut is absolutely heart wrenching when he is being stripped of rank, because his cries of "I am Innocent" are cries of a man desperately pleading to be believed and have his life returned to him. Schildkraut gives a passionate and moving portrait of Dreyfus in just these few moments.

Schildkraut continues to be effective as Dreyfus is being imprisoned and the sadness overwhelms him from what has happened to him. It would be common for many actors of this period to be completely unbelievable or over the top, but Schilkraut always gives a truthful performance. In just a few small reaction shots Schildkraut conveys the utter devastation of Dreyfus that has come from his imprisonment. There is not a false moment in this portrayal.

Dreyfus is finally proven innocent and released. Schildkraut is again given very little time, but still he manages to convey so well the relief, and happiness Dreyfus feels. He doesn't overplay it, but portrays the reality of this man's hope finally being rewarded. This is a good performance throughout only held by the fact he is barely in the film. It is really amazing though that Schildkraut managed to turn Dreyfus into a moving character in such limited screen time, when he could have easily been almost a non entity.


RatedRStar said...

as I said, I was a little dissapointed in this performance, I expected him to have a larger part then he did, I liked him a lot more in The Diary Of Anne Frank.

Oscargrouching said...

RatedRStar , check out my Best Supporting Actress Blog

RatedRStar said...

=) ok xx

RatedRStar said...


What you should do is like Louis does, have the URL as optional so I can comment cause as you may have noticed, Louis blog is the only one I can comment on because it doesnt require the URL or a sign in.

Oscargrouching said...


Oscargrouching said...

My first review is up , the colors are not the best though .