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Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and The Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Of Mice and Men (1939)
July 20, 2006 - 7:30 pm

Directed by Lewis Milestone

Director Lewis Milestone's Of Mice and Men was the first screen adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel and it took a lawsuit to get it made. As the story goes, Hal Roach agreed to settle a contract dispute with Milestone out of court by producing the film. A decided departure from Roach Studios' comedy fare, Milestone's sensitive portrayal of Steinbeck's tragic Depression-era characters remains a powerful exploration of loneliness, labor and the endurance of the human spirit.

Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr. leave their distinct and indelible imprints on the roles of George and Lennie while around them an array of hard-bitten faces—Betty Field as Mae, Charles Bickford as Slim, Roman Bohnen as Candy—flesh out the desperate, crushing world of itinerant farm work in Steinbeck's Salinas Valley.

Beyond the defining caliber of the film 's heart-wrenching performances, Milestone achieves a near seamless interplay between intimate studio craftwork and dazzling location photography. From the fateful riverbank where the film reaches its shattering finale to the sweep of harvesters rolling across wide open fields, Milestone captures moments of pure naturalist poetry that could have inspired Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven.

Opening with Hollywood's earliest pre-credit sequence, the film also features the first film score by composer Aaron Copland who was nominated for an Academy Award. Also nominated for Best Picture and Best Sound Recording, this remains the definitive version of Steinbeck's timeless classic.

—Paul Malcolm

Based on the novel and play by John Steinbeck. Producer: Hal Roach. Screenwriter: Eugene Solow. Cinematographer: Norbert Brodine. Editor: Bert Jordan. Cast: Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney, Jr., Betty Field, Charles Bickford.

35mm, 104 min.

Preserved from the 35mm nitrate original picture and soundtrack negatives and from additional 35mm nitrate positive print elements.

Laboratory services by Cinetech, Audio Mechanics, OJ Audio.

Special thanks to: Richard W. Bann, RHI Entertainment, LLC, and to David Cetra and Joseph Olivier for their help in recreating the film 's original sepia tone images.