Of Mice and Men is a classic on the page, stage, and screen. The original novel by John Steinbeck is one of the greatest books ever written. It was required reading for my brother and I. The 1937 book was quickly followed by a play and a Lewis Milestone directed film 2 years later. 1939 was a great year for movies, and Of Mice and Men was no expectation with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The same year Steinbeck wrote the equally captivating Grapes of Wrath. Both stories are about the American dream during the Great Depression. George and Lennie are an unlikely pair of traveling migrant workers who dream of one day owning their own land.
George has all the ideas that Lennie holds onto as his mentally disabled companion. This was the first major role for newcomer Burgess Meredith. Soon to be monster icon Lon Chaney Jr. acted many times before, but this was his first major role too. Chaney is a perfect physically imposing Lennie with the brain of a child and a lack of control over his actions. All he wants are rabbits to tend to on their farm. Together, George and Lennie find work on a ranch. Bob Steele’s Curly feels threatened by Lennie’s size, but Charles Bickford’s Slim makes him feel welcome with his very own puppy to pet.
George’s dream grows until it includes misfits like Roman Bohnen as the kind elderly Candy and Leigh Whipper as the honest African American Crooks. Betty Field had her breakout role as Curly’s sassy repressed wife Mae. The title refers to a poem that reads, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Lennie does something bad that ends their dream in a famous ending that was cleverly foreshadowed earlier when a dog is put down. Of Mice and Men is a story you’ll wanna hear again and again.