Oscar nominated for the Best Picture of the year (1939), 'Of Mice And Men' was adapted from the classic novel by American literary giant John Steinbeck and features stunningly memorable performances by Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr and a moving Academy Award nominated score from legendary composers Aaron Copland. The film, set in the bucolic Salinas Valley of California in the 1930's, paints a bold, vivid picture of life in the depression era and tells the tragic tale of men searching for a safe haven from the cruelties of the world where true poverty is loneliness and alienation from the loyalty and kindness of other men. George and Lennie are a pair of itinerant farm hands who dream of someday having their own modest ranch, but in the meantime toil for uncaring ranch owners. George (Meredith) must constantly watch over Lennie (Chaney) who has very few wits but an enormous strength which is always getting them into trouble when he finds a small animal or pretty girl that he innocently wants to caress. Always just a few steps ahead of disaster, the two friends land at yet another farm where circumstances and the help of a few fellow dreamers seem to bring their fantasies within reach. It is all the more tragic then, when Lennie finds trouble that there is no running away from and George is called on to carry out a final and ultimate act of friendship. For director Lewis Milestone, 'Of Mice And Men' was a labour of love. He had wanted to adapt the popular novel and play for film since he first read it, but lacked the Studio backing. In 1938 he found himself in a legal battle over money he was owed by Hal Roach Studios, and Roach agreed to settle out of court by paying for the production 'Of Mice And Men'. With script in hand, milestone went to John Steinbeck for his approval and input. Steinbeck requested only a few minor changes, gave his blessing to the production and even took Milestone on a "field trip" to the Salinas Valley farm where the actual events which inspired his story took place. Of the film, Steinbeck would later say, "It is a beautiful job. Here Milestone has done a curious, lyrical thing. It hangs together and is underplayed". The film opened to rave critical reviews and, unfortunately, poor business at the box office. Of course, competing films that year included Gone With The Wind, the grapes Of Wrath (another Steinbeck adaptation) and The Wizard of oz. 'Of Mice And Men' has since been released, remade on film and television and revived as a play many times for audiences who know a classic when they see one. Critics and scholars agree that this film version remains one of the most faithful and compelling translations of a literary masterwork.
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