AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Of Mice and Men
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
Release Date:   12 Jan 1940
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 24 Dec 1939
Production Date:   began mid-Aug 1939
Duration (in mins):   104
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Burgess Meredith (George [Milton])  
    Betty Field (Mae)  
    Lon Chaney Jr. (Lennie [Small])  
    Charles Bickford (Slim)  
    Roman Bohnen (Candy)  
    Bob Steele (Curley)  
    Noah Beery Jr. (Whit)  
    Oscar O'Shea (Jackson)  
    Granville Bates (Carlson)  
    Leigh Whipper (Crooks)  
    Helen Lynd (Susie)  
    Leona Roberts (Aunt Clara)  
    Barbara Pepper (Second girl)  
    Henriette Kaye (Third girl)  
    Eddie Dunn (Bus driver)  
    Howard Mitchell (Sheriff)  
    Whitney de Rhan (Ranch hand)  
    Baldwin Cooke (Ranch hand)  
    Charles Watt (Ranch hand)  
    Jack Lawrence (Ranch hand)  
    Carl Pitti (Ranch hand)  
    John Beach (Ranch hand)  

Summary: George Milton and Lennie Small, itinerant farm workers, escape a posse and hop a freight bound for the San Joaquin Valley where they hope to find work. On their way, they spend the night at a thicket along the Salinas River, and there George daydreams about buying a little farm of their own. George's dream, however, is continually endangered by Lennie, a simple-minded giant whose actions have set the posse on their trail. Before they leave, George tells Lennie that if he ever gets in serious trouble, he should return to the river. The pair continue on to the Jackson ranch, where they find work. There, Lennie incurs the enmity of Jackson's son Curley, a stunted bully who detests big men. Candy, an aged and decrepit swamper at the ranch, befriends the two newcomers and warns them to stay away from Curley's bride Mae, of whom Curley is insanely jealous. Later, George confides his dream to Candy, who offers to contribute his life savings to the farm. Just as their dream is on the verge of becoming a reality, Curley goes on the war path over his wife and, in a jealous rage, begins to pummel Lennie. After first retreating in terror, Lennie crushes Curley's fist in his huge hand. That Saturday night, while most of the ranch hands are in town, Mae comes upon Lennie, George and Curley in the quarters of Crooks, a crippled black stable boy, and deduces that it was Lennie who crushed her husband's hand. Mae taunts Curley about it, and in revenge, he orders her to pack her bags and get out. She does so the next afternoon, stopping at the barn to take a puppy that ranch hand Slim had given her. There, she sees Lennie brooding over the body of his own puppy, which he unintentionally killed with his brute strength. They begin to talk and Mae, sensing Lennie's desire to stroke soft things, persuades him to run his fingers through her hair. When she tells him to stop, he panics, causing her to scream. Lenny puts his hand over her mouth to quiet her, and when he removes it, she is dead. Remembering George's words, Lennie flees to the thicket by the river. When Curley organizes a posse to look for Lennie, George steals a pistol and beats the posse to the river, where he finds Lennie waiting. Determined to save Lennie from the mob, George instructs him to look across the river as he describes their farm. As Lennie listens with glee, George puts his pistol to the back of his friend's head and shoots him dead. 

Production Company: Hal Roach Studios, Inc.  
Production Text: A Lewis Milestone Production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
  Nate Watt (Asst dir)
Producer: Hal Roach (Pres)
  Lewis Milestone (Prod)
  Frank Ross (Assoc prod)
Writer: Eugene Solow (Scr)
Photography: Norbert Brodine (Photog)
  Wallace Chewning (Photog)
Art Direction: Nicolai Remisoff (Art dir)
Film Editor: Bert Jordan (Ed)
Set Decoration: W. L. Stevens (Int dec)
Costumes: Harry Black (Ward)
Music: Aaron Copland (Mus score)
  Irvin Talbot (Mus cond)
Sound: William Randall (Sd rec)
  Elmer Raguse (Sd rec)
Special Effects: Roy Seawright (Photog eff)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (London and New York, 1937) and the play of the same name as produced by Sam H. Harris and staged by George S. Kaufman (New York, 24 Nov 1937).
Authors: John Steinbeck

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
United Artists Corp. 2/2/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9395

PCA NO: 5797
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Bullies
  Mentally handicapped persons
  Migrant workers
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Fathers and sons
  Salinas River (CA)
  San Joaquin Valley (CA)

Note: The film's action actually begins before the opening credits appear, an unusual order for credits in a 1939 film. Actor Roman Bohnen's onscreen credit reads: "Roman Bohnen, (Candy in the film) courtesy of the Group Theater of New York." Actor Leigh Whipper also appeared in the original Broadway cast. According to pre-production news items in HR , Lewis Milestone and Rowland Brown purchased the screen rights to the play, and the two planned to co-produce the film version with Brown writing the screenplay and Milestone directing. Guinn Williams was tentatively set for the role of Lennie and producer Hal Roach negotiated with Warners to borrow James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart for the role of George. Wallace Ford was also to have been featured in the cast. Roach borrowed Betty Field from Paramount, and originally considered distributing the film through Paramount. The HR review credits Hal Roach as producer, although the onscreen credits refer to him only as presenter. Another news item in HR adds that the film was shot partially on location at Agoura Ranch in Agoura, CA. It was the first of John Steinbeck's novels to be filmed. This picture received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Score and Best Sound Recording. The picture was also included in the NBR 's list of the ten best films of the year. Another adaptation of Steinbeck's novel was released in 1992, directed by Gary Sinise, and starring Sinise as "George" and John Malkovich as "Lenny." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   22 Dec 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   27 Dec 39   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 38   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jan 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jul 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Aug 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 39   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 39   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   27 Dec 39   p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Dec 39   p. 48.
New York Times   17 Feb 40   p. 9.
Variety   3 Jan 40   p. 40.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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