Of Mice and Men is a 1992 American perioddrama film based on John Steinbeck's 1937 novella of the same name. Directed and produced by Gary Sinise, the film features Sinise as George Milton, alongside John Malkovich as Lennie Small, with Casey Siemaszko as Curley, John Terry as Slim, Ray Walston as Candy, Joe Morton as Crooks, and Sherilyn Fenn as Curley's wife.
Horton Foote adapted the story for film. Its plot centers on George and the intellectually disabled Lennie, two farm workers who travel together and dream of one day owning their own land. The film explores themes of discrimination, loneliness, and the American Dream.
Of Mice and Men took part in the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, where Sinise was nominated for the Palme d'Or award, given to the director of the best-featured film. After the film debuted in the United States on October 2, 1992, it received positive acclaim from critics.
During the Great Depression, the quick-witted George Milton (Gary Sinise) looks after his physically strong yet mentally disabled companion Lennie Small (John Malkovich). The two are fleeing from their previous employment as workmen in Weed, California where Lennie was accused of attempted rape when he touched and held onto a young woman (Moira Harris) and her red dress, prompted by his love of stroking soft things. George and Lennie escape and travel to Soledad, which is near the ranch where they have work. While walking, George catches Lennie petting a dead mouse that he had accidentally killed. Despite Lennie's pleas to keep the dead mouse, George takes it which causes Lennie to cry. George tries to explain to Lennie he took the mouse away due to Lennie's inability to control his strength.
As they camp that evening, Lennie asks George to tell him again about their dream, as he has numerous times, and George reluctantly agrees. George describes how the two will one day have their own piece of land, and how Lennie will tend (and pet) their rabbits. George adds, if Lennie should ever get in trouble, he is to return to the brush and wait for him. The following day, the two arrive to work at Tyler Ranch. The ranch Boss (Noble Willingham) becomes suspicious of Lennie's mental condition when Lennie talks, forgetting to keep silent as George had instructed him. In order not to be fired, George lies to the Boss, telling him Lennie is his cousin and that he was kicked in the head by a horse when he was a child. At the bunkhouse, George and Lennie befriend an aged, one-handed ranch-hand, Candy (Ray Walston). However, they take an instant dislike to the Boss' son, Curley (Casey Siemaszko), who hates people who are bigger than him. Lennie then becomes instantly attracted to Curley's seductive wife (Sherilyn Fenn), who comes into the bunkhouse to flirt with Lennie and George. George, aware that Curley's wife will bring trouble upon the men due to her sexual allure and persistent flirting, strictly instructs Lennie to keep away and not to look at her.
While at a barn waiting for Crooks (Joe Morton), an educated and intelligent black man who is bitter and isolated because of his race, George is discovered by Curley's Wife, who attempts to engage in a conversation. However, the attempt is interrupted when Curley enters the barn and confronts George, who threatens to beat him to a pulp and have him fired if he catches him fraternizing with his wife again. George is introduced to his work team, Slim (John Terry), the head of the team, who is greatly respected, and Carlson. When Carlson suggests they shoot Candy's old dog and get Slim to give him one of his pups, Lennie gets excited and asks George for a pup. After a hard day's work, George is proud of Lennie's work load and gets Lennie his puppy. Later, after Carlson kills his dog, Candy offers to pitch in with Lennie and George so they can buy the farm. Just as it seems that the dream is moving closer to reality, Curley comes by and accuses Slim of keeping his wife company as the workers mock Curley back. Curley spots Lennie laughing unintentionally, and he punches him repeatedly, yelling at him to fight back. The other men yell at Curley and encourage Lennie to fight. Lennie grabs Curley's hand and crushes it in his iron grip. George fears for his and Lennie's jobs on the ranch, but Slim gives Curley an ultimatum: Curley tells people his hand was just caught in a machine; if Curley tries to get George and Lennie sacked, Slim will tell everyone how Curley's hand really got crushed, and everyone will laugh at him. Curley, concerned for his reputation, reluctantly agrees to keep quiet.
The next day, Lennie and Crooks talk about being lonely, after which Curley's wife again attempts unsuccessfully to engage in conversation, now aware of what really happened to Lennie. Having reached the limit of her patience, the emotionally frustrated wife vows to leave the ranch forever, running to the house in tears. In the barn that evening, Lennie has accidentally killed his puppy and is greatly upset. Curley's wife enters and tries to speak to him, admitting she is lonely and how her dreams of becoming a movie star were crushed, revealing the reason she flirts with the ranch hands. After finding out about Lennie's love of petting soft things, she lets him stroke her hair, but she soon complains and screams because he is pulling too hard. Lennie tries to keep her quiet but accidentally breaks her neck in the process. Realizing he's in trouble, he runs to the brush as George told him to do. Candy finds Curley's wife dead and informs George, and the two realize their dream will never happen. Curley leads a mob which chases after Lennie intending to lynch him. George finds Lennie first and, wanting to spare him a violent and painful death at the hands of the mob, calms Lennie by retelling their dream. As George gets to the part where Lennie gets to tend the rabbits, he shoots Lennie in the back of the head. George then rides in a boxcar, heading South, remembering their old dream and his memories of Lennie.
The first experience Sinise had with Steinbeck's work came when Sinise attended Highland Park High School. His drama class went to Guthrie Theater and observed three plays in two days, one being Of Mice and Men. After viewing the play, he "stood up and applauded" and "was trying to scream some sort of acknowledgement of my feelings [...] but I was so choked up nothing came out except tears." He credits the play with "[introducing] me to literature".
Release and reception
On April 16, 1992, Gilles Jacob, director of the Cannes Film Festival, announced the 27 films competing in the "Official Competition" category, including Of Mice and Men. The film premiered the next month, and was Sinise's second film to compete at Cannes, after the 1988 feature Miles from Home. After viewing Of Mice and Men, critic Don Marshall noted how the audience gave a standing ovation to its cast. Marshall said he was "surprised" that the film didn't win an award, although Sinise was nominated for the Palme d'Or, given to the director of the best featured film.
The most sincere compliment I can pay them is to say that all of them – writer and actors – have taken every unnecessary gesture, every possible gratuitous note, out of these characters. The story is as pure and lean as the original fable which formed in Steinbeck's mind. And because they don't try to do anything fancy – don't try to make it anything other than exactly what it is – they have a quiet triumph.
The film made its American debut on October 2, 1992, and grossed $5,471,088 from a total of 398 theaters. Despite what the Los Angeles Daily News described as a "poor box office performance", the film received positive critical acclaim. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5/4 stars, and complimented the cast on their attention to detail. Writing for Variety, Todd McCarthy was impressed at the set design, and contrasted the film's "lovely, burnished hues" with the studio-produced 1939 film. He went on to say that the actor's performances were "sterling" and gave the supporting cast positive reception.Vincent Canby of The New York Times also praised the physical production and supporting cast, but added that the film "is not very exciting", possibly because "looking back at Lennie and George with the perspective of time robs them of their urgency."The Austin Chronicle's Steve Davis called Of Mice and Men "unassuming but well-made", and gave the film 3/5 stars. MGM released Of Mice and Men on VHS in 1993. The film was later released as a DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on March 4, 2003. The DVD is featured in widescreen with English, French, and Spanish subtitles, and has the option of French dubbing. The film was then released on Blu-ray by Olive Films on January 19, 2016.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 28 reviews, with an average score of 8/10.
- ^Terry, Clifford (September 13, 1992). "Sinise To Steinbeck To Sinise: A Lifelong Passion Comes To The Screen". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Company.
- ^Kehr, Dave (April 19, 1992). "'Of Mice And Men' To Represent Chicago At Cannes". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Company.
- ^Marshall, Don (May 23, 1992). "'Losers' Outnumber 'Winners' 10 to 1 at 45th Annual Cannes Film Festival". Deseret News. Deseret News Publishing Company.
- ^Movshovitz, Howie (May 3, 1992). "Cannes festival brings stars, films into spotlight glare". The Denver Post. MediaNews Group. (subscription required)
- ^ abEbert, Roger (October 2, 1992). "Of Mice and Men". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
- ^"Of Mice and Men". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
- ^"'Evidence' of Revival at MGM?". Los Angeles Daily News. MediaNews Group. January 17, 1993. (subscription required)
- ^McCarthy, Todd (May 18, 1992). "Review: "Of Mice and Men"". Variety.
- ^Canby, Vincent (October 2, 1992). "Of Mice and Men (1992) Review/Film; New Facets Highlighted in a Classic". The New York Times. The New York Times Company.
- ^Davis, Steve (October 23, 1992). "Of Mice and Men". The Austin Chronicle. Austin Chronicle Corporation.
- ^"Of Mice and Men". WorldCat. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
- ^"Of Mice and Men at Rottentomatoes.com". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
Read the winning essays from previous years »
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world, providing readers with a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Now, we are proud to host our second annual Penguin Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, in which five high school freshmen or sophomores can each win a $1,000 scholarship award to be used toward their higher education plus a selection of Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions for their school! Essays must be submitted by a high school English teacher on behalf of students who write an essay on one of five topics for this year’s competition book, Of Mice and Men.
This year’s essay subject is Of Mice and Men.
Select one of the following five topics:
For all these questions, use quotations from the text to support your interpretation.
- Given George and Lennie’s complex relationship, explain what keeps them together. What does each offer the other?
- Will George continue to dream of having a home of his own and “living off the fat of the land” after Lennie’s death? Was this dream ever realistic, with or without Lennie?
- Explain the factors that lead to George killing Lennie. Did George have any other choice? Defend your point of view.
- Describe Slim’s role in the community of the ranch. What sets him apart from the others? At the end of the novel, why does he alone understand what George has done?
- Contrast the relationship of Curly and his wife to that of George and Lennie. Why do both relationships end so tragically?
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- Topic selected (#1, #2, #3, #4 or #5)
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Essays submitted without a cover letter on parent/legal guardian’s letterhead or cover letters that do not include the above details will be disqualified.
- Essays must be at least two and no more than three double-spaced pages, computer or typewritten (please do not staple submissions). Please include four (4) copies (including four (4) cover letters) of each essay submitted. Entries must be mailed to Penguin Publishing Group, Academic Marketing Department, Penguin Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. To be eligible, all entries must be postmarked by April 28, 2018 and received on or by May 5, 2018. Submissions by fax, email or any other electronic means will not be considered.
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All eligible entries received will be judged by a qualified panel of judges chosen by Penguin Publishing Group and winners will be selected on or about June 29, 2018. Winning essays must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the themes and issues presented in Of Mice and Men. Submissions will be judged on style, content, grammar, and originality. Judges will look for clear, concise writing that is original, articulate, logically organized, and well supported. Winners will be notified by July 8th, 2018 via email, and will be announced online on or about July 15th, 2018.
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The title for the 3rd Annual Penguin Classics Essay Contest will be The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Essay topics will be posted on our website after July 2018.