When Hollywood laid its golden fingers upon Mr. Steinbeck, the great realist and his following sadly shook their heads. You couldn't expect to reproduce Toilers of the Land in the gloss of Klieg lights. Agricultural proletarians on a budget of a few hundred dollars a day simply wouldn't look human. There were limits even to what Hollywood could do.
Now that "Of Mice and Men" has finally made its appearance on celluloid, even the most ardent Steinbeck fans will shamefacedly withdraw their objections. For Hal Roach retells the story of George, the migrant farmer, and his protege, the idiot Lennie, with the same simplicity and sinceity, the same trenchant poignancy, as Mr. Steinback. Packed with grim reality, gripping in its psychological depth, "Of Mice and Men" the movie, does no more nor less than the novel,: it lays open some facts of life, plainly and eloquently.
Burgess Meredith as George, Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lennie, and Betty Field as Mae, give an emotionally high-strung performance without ever falling into sentimentality or affectation. An exceptionally successful use of sound effects and close-ups occasionally stretches the nerves of the audience to the breaking point. But it is not these technical niceties, not even the heartfelt acting, which make "Of Mice And Men" a great picture. It is its bare-faced simplicity, its unpretentions conception of the relations between mind and man, between man and annual. For once, the movie industry has gone out of its way to approach a world as devoid of glamor and "oomph" as a clod of earth. Perhaps, after all, Hollywood and California are not as far apart as we have been made to believe.