George Milton and Lennie Small are migrant workers in the 1930s Depression. Lennie is mentally disabled and George looks after him. While working as hands on a Western ranch, they dream of ... See full summary »
Outside the Framework UNDER CONSTRUCTION SERIES In 2003 and 2004, a Kosova based documentary team traveled throughout the countries of ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, filming and interviewing ... See full summary »
Mark Embury sets out to create the perfect wife by adopting Peggy. His work is a success until the girl falls in love with another man. Ultimately, he must give her up and become satisfied ... See full summary »
J. Searle Dawley
"The Grapes of Wrath: We Shall Overcome" is a documentary film authorized by the Estate of Elaine A. Steinbeck. The film explores the legacy and meanings of John Steinbeck's American ... See full summary »
George Milton and Lennie Small are migrant workers in the 1930s Depression. Lennie is mentally disabled and George looks after him. While working as hands on a Western ranch, they dream of owning their own ranch and the opportunity may be available. Their current ranch is owned by a sadistic man who has a flirtatious wife. Written by
At the beginning, when George and Lennie are being chased, they are running alongside a train, then climbing inside. As they run, the shadow of the camera operator, wearing a cap, is clearly seen against a train car. See more »
The movie begins before the credits are shown. George and Lennie are fleeing a mob. They board a boxcar on a moving train, and as they close the door of the boxcar we see the main title already written on the door of the boxcar. See more »
This screen adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic novel is a harsh, fantastic film that took the wind out of me with its frank and brutal depiction of desperation and longing. Movies about the Depression that were actually made at the time of the Depression by people who knew of what they spoke by necessity feel so much more authentic than later movies that treat the Depression as a historical event. The men in this film are quite literally living day to day, and the comparison of men to dogs that serves as a running motif throughout the film feels like more than just a poetic device. Like dogs, these men were faced with the scary prospect of some day being of no more use, and there was no system in place to take care of them when that day came. Being shot like a dog put out of its misery by its owner really was preferable to the alternatives awaiting them.
I was surprised about how candid this film was, and how bravely it tackled some of the thornier issues of Steinbeck's novel. The incident between Lenny and Mae is divested of some of its sexual overtones, but much is implied anyway. And a scene between Crooks, a black work hand, and some of the other workers, in which Crooks explains in blunt language what it means to be black, tackles race relations as honestly as many films today.
Moments of this film are almost unbearably sad and poignant, but never in that over-sentimental way common to Hollywood films of this time period. Burgess Meredith is terrific in the role of George; he expertly conveys--without ever directly addressing it--the bond he has with Lenny and the degree to which Lenny is as much George's savior as he is Lenny's. Charles Bickford is also excellent as a rough and world-weary worker. The cast's weak links are Betty Field--hopelessly overplaying her bored sex kitten--and Lon Chaney as Lenny, though both are very good in the pivotal scene that sets off the action of the film's finale.
John Ford's adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath" from the following year gets all of the attention today, and one hardly ever hears of "Of Mice and Men." But much of what is great about Ford's film is also great about Lewis Milestone's, and he deserves credit for laying a fine blueprint for brining Steinbeck's beautiful and heartbreaking stories to the screen.
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