Of Mice and Men

LENGTH: 107 min
COUNTRY: United States
YEAR: 1939
GENRE: Classic
FORMATS: 35mm & Retail DVD
LANGUAGE: English
DIRECTOR: Lewis Milestone
CAST: Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney, Jr., Bob Steele, Betty Field, Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Noah Berry, Jr., Oscar O’Shea, Granville Bates, Leigh Whipper, Helen Lynd
CREW: PRODUCER: Lewis Milestone; SCREENWRITER: Eugene Solow, Based on the play by John Steinbeck; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Norbert Brodine; EDITOR: Bert Jordan; MUSIC: Aaron Copeland

SYNOPSIS

John Steinbeck is unquestionably one of America’s most important authors and this film adaptation, superbly directed by Lewis Milestone, is regarded as the best of the three-film adaptation of his most famous play. There are many aspects of the play that are faithfully transferred to the screen – Steinbeck’s understanding and sympathy for the migrant workers’ plight, society’s callous treatment of the elderly, and discrimination against Blacks.

The film is also remarkable in its own right, with great direction, cinematography, a brilliant score by Aaron Copland (nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score in 1939), and great performances by Burgess Meredith as George Milton, Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lennie, Charles Bickford as Slim and Bob Steele as Curley. In fact, Chaney’s portrayal as the feeble-minded, but incredibly strong Lennie, has to be the definitive interpretation of the role and should have won him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

As it has been so often described, it really is the ultimate buddy film, brilliantly capturing the hope and frustration of trying to achieve a better life, as so eloquently stated in the opening credits, “The Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men.”

At the end, after Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s wife, and George realizes he must shoot him before the mob gets to him, we share George’s pain at having to take the life of an innocent person not responsible for his own actions. It is an incredible moment, as George tells Lennie once more about their plans to have their own farm and live “off the fat of the land,” then moves closer to shoot him, taking his best friend’s life.

PHOTOS

REVIEWS

The New York Times
By Frank Nugent, 1940

“…Lewis Milestone, who directed it; Eugene Solow, who adapted it, and Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney Jr., Betty Field and the others who have performed it, have done more than well in simply realizing the drama’s established values. Of Mice and Men need not have been better as a play than it was as a — novelette; it need not be better as a picture, so long as it is just as good.”

Time Out Film Guide

“Impressive adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel, made at the same time as The Grapes of Wrath (though released earlier) and matching Ford’s harsh lyricism in its evocation of the Depression, the desperation of the migrant farmworkers, their pipe dreams of a little place of their own some day. Terrific performances mask much of the novel’s naive social philosophy…”

FESTIVALS & AWARDS

  • 1939 Oscars: BEST PICTURE NOMINATION
  • 1939 Oscars: BEST SOUND RECORDING NOMINATION
  • 1939 Oscars: BEST MUSICAL SCORE NOMINATION
  • 1939 Oscars: BEST ORIGINAL SCORE NOMINATION

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DIRECTOR FILMOGRAPHY

1962 Mutiny on the Bounty
1960 Ocean’s Eleven
1946 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
1939 Of Mice and Men
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front