Of Mice and Men

Films based on the novel by John Steinbeck:

Of Mice and Men (1939)
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Director Lewis Milestone; writer Eugene Solow; featuring Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney Jr., Betty Field, Charles Bickford

Of Mice and Men (1992)
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Director Gary Sinise; writer Horton Foote; featuring John Malkovich, Sinise, Ray Walston, Sherilyn Fenn

Of Mice and Men

COMMENTARY | MOVIES

Of Mice and Men (1939) scene

Lennie, left, and George (Gary Sinise) make plans with a friend in 1992 film of Of Mice and Men.

George and Lennie as they really were

The 1992 version Of Mice and Men is almost completely a knock-off of the 1992 film—except it's now full colour and, more significantly, the realism is heightened.

The sentimental gloss has been stripped off, so George played by Gary Sinise, who also directed effectively, is desperately annoyed with the big guy he looks out for. And Lennie really sounds and behaves like a mentally challenged man; amazingly we get this uncomfortable depiction from the usually cerebral and sophisticated actor John Malkovich—a revelation both of Malkovich's talent and of the man Lennie Small would have been in real life.

The story starts just slightly before the earlier film, as Lennie unintentionally annoys a young woman, leading to her screaming and a group of men chasing Lennie and George. They escape by hiding under weeds in a ditch exactly as before. They take a little longer to get to their riverbank camp but once there the scene unfolds again almost exactly as Steinbeck wrote it and as the earlier film presented it. (This time, moreover, it is a dead mouse Lennie carries, as in the book.)

The movie was scripted by the great Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies), who knew enough to let alone those great lines and passages from both the book and earlier film.

All the same important scenes are played out here, though with a slightly harder edge. The only notable exception is that the slight "stable buck" subplot is eliminated.

The final scene, when George gives Lennie his ultimate gift, is again grimmer, not stretched out for suspense and melodrama as in the earlier film, but delivered with understated emotion. It's over before we know it, shockingly quickly.

A less satisfying conclusion than in the 1939 film, but with an unsettling impact of its own.

— Eric

COMMENTARY | MOVIES

Related:

Novella
Of Mice and Men

Author
John Steinbeck

Novel
The Grapes of Wrath

Novel
East of Eden

Movies
The Grapes of Wrath

Movies
East of Eden

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Of Mice and Men
(1992, DVD)
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missing graphic
The Grapes of Wrath
(1940, DVD)
Get at Amazon
USCanUK

missing graphic
East of Eden
(1955, DVD)
Get at Amazon: USCanUK