A newly restored sepia-tone print of the 1939 Best Picture nominee Of Mice and Men will be screened in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ series “Hollywood’s Greatest Year: The Best Picture Nominees of 1939” on Monday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The evening will begin at 7 p.m., with the 11th chapter of the 1939 serial Buck Rogers, starring Buster Crabbe and Constance Moore; the comedy short Dog Daze, featuring the Our Gang brats; and Night Descends on Treasure Island, about the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair.
Of Mice and Men is one of the movies I need to revisit, as I saw it many years ago. Adapted by Eugene Solow from John Steinbeck’s Depression Era-novel about a mentally retarded man and his companion working as farm hands at a ranch, I do recall that the film version of Of Mice and Men suffers from some heavy theatrics.
That’s curious, since by then the film’s director, Lewis Milestone, had already handled dozens of motion pictures, including the Academy Award-winning All Quiet on the Western Front. Milestone surely knew how much melodrama would fit on the big screen; even so, he gave Burgess Meredith (who did come from a theatrical background) free rein to chew up the ranch’s scenery.
On the other hand, Lon Chaney Jr., as the dim-witted lug, and Betty Field (above, with Burgess Meredith), as a bored and heartless farm wife, deliver solid dramatic performances. Both, in fact, should have received Oscar nominations in the supporting categories.
Of Mice and Men garnered four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture (Hal Roach, production company), Music - Original Score (Aaron Copland), Music - Scoring (Copland) and Sound Recording (Hal Roach Studio Sound Department, Elmer A. Raguse, sound director).
Also, I should note that the relentlessly dramatic Of Mice and Men was produced by Hal Roach, who specialized in (mostly low-brow) comedies.
Tickets for Of Mice and Men are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.
Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library
Ron Chaney, grandson of Lon Chaney Jr. and great-grandson of Lon Chaney, prior to a screening of Of Mice and Men presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday, July 27, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Photo: Todd Wawrychuk / © A.M.P.A.S.