I Accuse!

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

I Accuse!
Directed byJosé Ferrer
Produced bySam Zimbalist
Screenplay byGore Vidal
Based onthe book Captain Dreyfus; The Story of a Mass Hysteria by Nicholas Halasz
StarringJosé Ferrer
Anton Walbrook
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byFrank Clarke
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]

Plot synopsis

In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus (José Ferrer), a Jewish captain in the French Army, is falsely accused of treason. He is sentenced to imprisonment on Devil's Island. When the real traitor is found, the French Army tries to hide the truth by exonerating the traitor in a mock trial. Émile Zola, the famous French author, writes a letter to the President of France entitled "I Accuse!", which reveals the truth behind the cover up. The letter is published in the newspaper and Zola is sued for libel, leading to a re-examination of the entire Dreyfus case.



The film was based on a book Captain Dreyfus: Story of Mass Hysteria which was published in 1955. The new York Times said it "had high merits".[2]

In October 1955 MGM acquired an option on the film rights. The story had been filmed previously, notably in The Life of Emile Zola and The Dreyfus Case, but MGM claimed the book "contains quite a bit of material that had not come to life before".[3]

In January 1957 Sam Zimablist announced that Jose Ferrer would star and direct.[4][5]

In March Viveca Lindfors signed to co star.[6]

The film was known as Captain Dreyfus before being retitled I Accuse.[7]

Location work was done in Belgium. The French army refused filming in that country.[8] Filming finished by June 1957.[9]


Box Office

The film 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]


The fact that Dreyfus was railroaded because he was Jewish was obscured in the movie The Life of Emile Zola (1937). Only those villains whose names were a matter of public record (Major Dort, Major Esterhazy) are specifically identified. Others are referred to as the Chief of Staff, the Minister of War, etc. to avoid lawsuits from their descendants (remember that the events depicted in the film, most of which take place between 1894 and 1902, were still within living memory in 1937). As for Dreyfus himself, he was not freed and restored to rank in 1902, the year of Zola's death, but in 1906-after being found guilty again in an 1899 retrial (Dreyfus died in 1935, outliving everyone else involved in the case).[10][11]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. The Magnificent Storm By ALBERT GUERARD. New York Times ]31 July 1955: BR3.
  3. BY WAY OF REPORT: Prospect for Zinnemann -- Local Film Matters By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 9 Oct 1955: X5.
  4. Looking at Hollywood: Jose Ferrer Will Direct, Star in Dreyfus Case Film Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 15 Jan 1957: a9.
  5. PECK TO PERFORM IN MOVIE FOR FOX. New York Times 15 Jan 1957: 24.
  6. 'MY MAN GODFREY' SUSPENDED AGAIN New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]05 Mar 1957: 36.
  7. 2 SCRIPT WRITERS WIN CREDIT FIGHT. New York Times 6 Mar 1957: 34.
  8. L'AFFAIRE DREYFUS Buchwald, Art. Los Angeles Times 10 June 1957: B5.
  9. Alan Ladd Goes Back To Detecting Louella Parsons:. The Washington Post and Times Herald 14 June 1957: A21.
  10. http://www.allmovie.com/movie/life-of-emile-zola-v29244
  11. TCM - Ben Mankiewicz on 28 March 2015
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