John Steinbeck (novel)
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Of Mice and Men is a 1939 film 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 how the lead characters, George and Lennie, try to pursue their dream of owning their own ranch instead of working always for other people.
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. The film introduced both Meredith and Chaney for the first time.
Two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression—George Milton (Burgess Meredith), an intelligent and cynical man, 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 ranch owner's son, 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 vengeful 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.
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