Of Mice and Men (1939) starring Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney Jr., Betty Field
Of Mice and Men is an incredible portrayal of the famous novel by by John Steinbeck. Accurate, riveting, heartbreaking, highly recommended.
Of Mice and Men is a truly great film, with great performances. Frankly, both Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. deserved Oscars for their performances. Lon later became typecast in the horror genre, but his performance her shows why he was one of the best actors in Hollywood. As was Burgess.
The basic story deals with four people in conflict. Lennie, a mentally retarded hulk of a man, who never means to get in trouble. George, his best friend, who tries to look out for him and keep him out of trouble. Curley, whom the itinerant pair is working for — a cruel, jealous man. Mae, his wife, who likes to flirt with other men — and chooses Lennie.
The ending is one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever filmed. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll strongly encourage you to see it for yourself. It’s one of the few films I’ll rate 5 stars.
Lennie: You want I should go away and leave you alone?
George Milton: Where could you go?
Lennie: Oh, I could… I could go right up in them hills and some place find a cave.
George Milton: How’d ya eat? You aint’ got sense enough to find somethin’ to eat.
Lennie: Oh, I’d find some things. I don’t need no fancy foods like beans with ketchup! I could lay out in the sun where nobody’d hurt me.
George Milton: I been mean to ya. Ain’t I?
Lennie: Well, if you don’t want me you only just gotta say so. I can go right up in them hills and live by myself and I won’t get no birds stole from me.
George Milton: Somebody’d shoot you for a coyot if you were by yourself. Better stay with me.
- Burgess Meredith (Clash of the Titans) … George Milton
- Betty Field (Blues in the Night) … Mae Jackson
- Lon Chaney Jr. (High Noon, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) … Lennie Small
- Charles Bickford (A Star is Born 1954) … Slim
- Roman Bohnen (The Best Years of Our Lives) … Candy
- Bob Steele (The Big Sleep) … Curley Jackson
- Noah Beery Jr. (Red River) … Whit
- Oscar O’Shea (Stranger on the Third Floor) … Jackson
- Granville Bates (Next Time I Marry) … Carlson
- Leigh Whipper (The Vanishing Virginian) … Crooks
- Helen Lynd (The Strawberry Blonde) … Susie
John Steinbeck’s novel was just two years old when director Lewis Milestone adapted it for the screen, and it remains the most potent treatment of the classic Depression-era story, not least because it depicts a period that the cast and crew had only recently lived through themselves, with none of the social safety-nets that their descendants take for granted.
Burgess Meredith gives one of his finest performances as George, companion and protector of on Chaney Jr.’s hulking, slow-witted Lennie. Both men are itinerant workers, trying to make ends meet while dreaming of a modest future tilling their own land — an ambition constantly undermined by Lennie’s inability to avoid getting into scrapes, usually over misunderstandings.
It was tipped for multiple Oscars in the year when Gone with the wind swept the board: two of the nominations went to Aaron Copeland for the for the great American composer’s first original film score.