Tell Me About the Rabbits

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.

Of Mice and Men 1939

George and Lennie hideout

4 thoughts on “Tell Me About the Rabbits

  1. I read the book for one of my college classes years ago, what a brilliant and tragic work. TCM for some reason aired this Thanksgiving night about 10 years ago and it was the first time I saw it. Lon Chaney Jr. proved as Lenny he was a quality acting talent, and then he played Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man and got stuck in the Horror genre. Burgess Meredith did some great movies back before he became an icon as Penguin in Adam West’s Batman show and of course as the coarse but loving boxing trainer Mickey in the Rocky franchise, and George was a fine early part.

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