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USA 1939
Directed by
Lewis Milestone
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Of Mice And Men

Although now feeling at times somewhat condescending in its portrayal of dirt poor farm workers, a caricatural tendency which seems typical of the sub-genre (compare it to. for instance, John Ford’s Tobacco Road,1941) director Lewis Milestone achieves a well-crafted and empathetic screen transposition of the well-known novella by John Steinbeck and its successful stage adaptation in a story already sentimental enough not to need any further embellishing.

Burgess Meredith plays itinerant farm worker George Milton who with his simple-minded companion Lennie Small (Lon Chaney Jr.) begins working at a ranch near Soledad, California. Good-natured but awkward, Lennie has a involuntary habit of getting into trouble and despite George’s best efforts he does so again, this time with tragic results.

If Chaney is one-note in his performance, Meredith is winning as his devoted minder, frustrated by the burdensome nature of his charge yet for all that deeply caring about him. The rest of the characters including Roman Bohnen's Candy, Charles Bickford's Slim and Betty Field’s Mae add texture if not realism to the proceedings though Bob Steele’s Curley is simply yet another instance of the innumerable bit-part cowboys he played during a long jobbing career. There is one qualitative anomaly with the film and I assume that this is due to Hays Office interference and that is Mae’s demise which is at best perfunctorily handled and robs it of what should have been its climactic moment

 

 

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