I Accuse!

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I Accuse!
I Accuse! FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by José Ferrer
Screenplay by Gore Vidal
Based onthe book Captain Dreyfus; The Story of a Mass Hysteria by Nicholas Halasz
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
StarringJosé Ferrer
Anton Walbrook
Cinematography Freddie Young
Edited by Frank Clarke
Music by William Alwyn
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 5 March 1958 (1958-03-05)(USA)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1.8 million [1]
Box office$665,000 [1]

I Accuse! is a British 1958 CinemaScope biographical drama film directed by and starring José Ferrer. The film is based on the true story of the Dreyfus affair, in which a Jewish captain in the French Army was falsely accused of treason.


Plot synopsis

In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus (José Ferrer), a Jewish captain in the French Army, is falsely accused of treason. He is sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island. Major Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, an infantry officer of Hungarian descent, helps in the investigation. When he is found to be the real spy, the French Army tries to hide the truth by exonerating the traitor in a mock trial. Émile Zola, the famous French author, writes an open letter to the prime minister of France entitled I Accuse! , which reveals the truth behind the cover up. The letter is published in the newspaper, causing a firestorm around the world, leading to a re-examination of the entire Dreyfus case. Eventually, Esterhazy makes a full confession, and Dreyfus is completely exonerated, being inducted into the French Legion of Honor.



The film was based on a book Captain Dreyfus: Story of Mass Hysteria which was published in 1955. [2] In October 1955 MGM acquired an option on the film rights. The story had been filmed previously, notably in The Life of Émile Zola , but MGM claimed the book "contains quite a bit of material that had not come to life before". [3]

The film was known as Captain Dreyfus before being retitled I Accuse. [4]

The location work was done in Belgium, as the French army refused to allow filming in France. [5] Filming finished by June 1957. [6]

I Accuse! was a box office flop. It earned $190,000 in the US and Canada and $475,000 elsewhere, leading to a loss of $1,415,000. [1]


Variety called the film "strong, if plodding, entertainment." The publication said Ferrer's performance is "a wily, impeccable one, but it comes from the intellect rather than the heart and rarely causes pity." [7]

The Philadelphia Inquirer was unimpressed: "For no immediately apparent reason, the Dreyfus scandal...is being given a new screen airing....more zeal than art....Gore Vidal's plodding writing is almost constantly at odds with the overly melodramatic or numbed performances director-star Ferrer has elicited from himself and his cast....If Ferrer underplays drastically, the reverse must be said for almost everyone else in the large, hard-pressed cast." [8]

New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote that the film's "studious and generally valid re-enactment of the highlights of the case offers rewards," but said the film lacked excitement and drama and that "Mr. Ferrer's Dreyfus is a sad sack, a silent and colorless man who takes his unjust conviction with but one outburst of protest and then endures his Devil's Island torment lying down. He is a chilly hero who stirs mere intellectual sympathy." [9]

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  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ALBERT GUERARD (31 July 1955). "The Magnificent Storm". New York Times. p. BR3.
  3. A. H. WEILER (9 October 1955). "BY WAY OF REPORT: Prospect for Zinnemann -- Local Film Matters". New York Times. p. X5.
  4. "2 Script Writers Win Credit Fight". New York Times. 6 March 1957. p. 34.
  5. Buchwald, Art (10 June 1957). "L'AFFAIRE DREYFUS". Los Angeles Times. p. B5.
  6. Louella Parsons (14 June 1957). "Alan Ladd Goes Back To Detecting". The Washington Post and Times-Herald. p. A21.
  7. Variety Staff (1 January 1958). "I Accuse". Variety. Retrieved 18 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. Martin, Mildred. "Jose Ferrer Stars in 'I Accuse'." Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 March 1958.
  9. Crowther, Bosley (6 March 1958). "Dreyfus Affair; Ferrer in 'I Accuse!' At Local Theatres". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 6 September 2022.