Of Mice and Men (1939 film)
|Of Mice and Men|
Theatrical release lobby card
|Directed by||Lewis Milestone|
|Produced by||Lewis Milestone|
|Screenplay by||Eugene Solow|
|Story by||John Steinbeck|
|Based on||Play by:
George S. Kaufman
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Noah Beery, Jr.
|Music by||Aaron Copland|
|Editing by||Bert Jordan|
|Studio||Hal Roach Studios|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||December 30, 1939|
|Running time||111 minutes|
Of Mice and Men is a 1939 film based on the 1937 play based on the novella of the same title by American author John Steinbeck. It stars Burgess Meredith, Betty Field, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bickford, Roman Bohnen, Bob Steele and Noah Beery, Jr. It was remade in 1992.
The film tells the story of two men, George and his mentally challenged partner Lennie, trying to survive during the dustbowl of the 1930s and pursuing a dream of owning their own ranch, instead of always working for others. Starring in the lead roles were relative Hollywood newcomer Burgess Meredith as George, and veteran actor Lon Chaney Jr. (the son of famed silent film actor Lon Chaney Sr.) as Lennie. Chaney had appeared in more than 50 films to that point in his career, but Of Mice and Men was his first major role.
The film, produced by the Hal Roach Studios, was adapted by Eugene Solow and directed by Lewis Milestone. It was nominated for four Oscars. The musical score was by American composer Aaron Copland. Running in theaters in 1939, it disappeared for many years at a time until the 1980s and 1990s, when it slowly appeared in revival theater houses, video and cable and earned a following of fans (both audience members and film critics) who praised the movie for its brilliant interpretation of the Steinbeck novella.
Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton (Burgess Meredith), an intelligent and quick-witted man (despite his frequent claims of being "not that smart"), and Lennie Small (Lon Chaney, Jr.), an ironically-named man of large stature and immense strength but limited mental abilities—come to a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California to "work up a stake." They hope to one day attain their shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. George protects Lennie at the beginning by telling him that if Lennie gets into trouble George won't let him "tend them rabbits." They are fleeing from their previous employment in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress.
At the ranch, the dream appears to move closer to reality. Candy (Roman Bohnen), the aged, one-handed ranch-hand, even offers to pitch in with Lennie and George so they can buy the farm by the end of the month. The dream crashes when Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife (Betty Field) of Curley (Bob Steele), the jealous, violent son of the ranch owner, while trying to stroke her hair. A lynch mob led by Curley gathers. George, realizing he is doomed to a life of loneliness and despair like the rest of the migrant workers and wanting to spare Lennie a painful death at the hands of the furious and violent Curley, shoots Lennie in the back of the head before the mob can find him after George gives him one last retelling of their dream of owning their own land.
- Burgess Meredith as George
- Betty Field as Mae
- Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie
- Charles Bickford as Slim
- Roman Bohnen as Candy
- Bob Steele as Curley
- Noah Beery Jr. as Whit
- Oscar O'Shea as Jackson
- Granville Bates as Carlson
- Leigh Whipper as Crooks
- Helen Lynd as Susie
Critical response 
When the film was first released Frank S. Nugent, the film critic of The New York Times praised the film and the acting, writing, "And New York, unless we have miscalculated again, will endorse its film version, at the Roxy, as heartily as it has endorsed the film of the Joads. The pictures have little in common as narrative, but they have much in common as art; the same deft handling of their material, the same understanding of people, the same ability to focus interest sharply and reward it with honest craftsmanship and skill...No small share of that credit belongs to the men and the one young woman Hal Roach has recruited for his production. Miss Field has added stature to the role of the foreman's wife by relieving her of the play's box-office-conscious order that she behave like a hoyden.
The staff at Variety magazine also reviewed the film favorably, writing, "Under skillful directorial guidance of Lewis Milestone, the picture retains all of the forceful and poignant drama of John Steinbeck's original play and novel, in presenting the strange palship and eventual tragedy of the two California ranch itinerants. In transferring the story to the screen, scripter Eugene Solow eliminated the strong language and forthright profanity. Despite this requirement for the Hays whitewash squad, Solow and Milestone retain all of the virility of the piece in its original form."
Awards and nominations 
The film received very positive reviews, earning a 100% "fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 9 reviews. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Sound Recording (Elmer A. Raguse), Best Musical Score, Best Original Score.
- The cinematic release of the film ran 111 minutes, while later video and DVD versions ran 106 minutes due to the different frame rates between film and video.
- Nugent, Frank S. The New York Times, film review, February 17, 1940. Last accessed: February 12, 2011.
- Variety. Film review, December 31, 1938. Last accessed: February 12, 2011.
- Of Mice and Men (1939) Rotten Tomatoes. Movie Reviews, retrieved 11-07-2011.
- "The 12th Academy Awards (1940) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
See also 
- Of Mice and Men at the Internet Movie Database
- Of Mice and Men at the TCM Movie Database
- Of Mice and Men at Rotten Tomatoes
- Of Mice and Men film clips at Turner Classic Movies Media Room
- Burgess Meredith info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0580565/
- Lon Chaney Jr. info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001033/