If you born before 1970, and you haven't seen the movie, you've seen the movie. It's referenced in countless cartoons, tv shows and movies. Incredible performance by Lon Chaney. The quote "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" is unique in that it starts in one language and ends in another. It's like you're speaking English and then for no reason you start speaking in tongues.
Director Lewis Milestone's winning adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel is melodramatic, certainly; but the extraordinary story and characters and strong performances pull it through - Lon Chaney Jr. is particularly superb, it's a shame he was never given a career opportunity like this again. As dated as it may be, the story is strong enough to make it a classic.
Despite its moments of stiltedness (which plagued a lot of 1930's Hollywood films), I found this to be an extremely effective adaptation of a classic book. The deep amount of information that the filmmakers impart with just a close-up or a single line of dialogue is extraordinary, establishing a whole universe in a matter of minutes. The cast is also strong, headlined by the marvelous work of Meredith and Chaney.
This movie doesn't fail to intellectually intrigue or emotionally involve, regardless of how familiar you are with John Steinbeck's classic novel. There are some well-done technical elements the film possesses on its own, particularly its cinematography. However, John Steinbeck's prose is the engrossing backbone while the perfect chemistry between Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. is its heart and soul.
Too bad this was released in 1939, along with Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights and Stagecoach. I think it's not as valued and recognized as it deserves, especially Lon Chaney's great performance!
The scene where they're waiting for Candy's dog to get shot is a master class in cinematic tension. We wait and we wait for the gunshot, and as Lewis Milestone denies us, letting the scene really drag, the agony is ours.
Kudos to Hal Roach Studios (known for comedies) and director Lewis Milestone, who had a long, varied career, for adapting a difficult novel and play into a superb film. For 1939 especially, the film does a great job accenting the racial and class divide on a working ranch and the polarization of a disabled person. Chaney plays for pathos and is its tragic center, but striving and sacrifice beat at the film's heart.