A migrant worker protects his strong, simple-minded friend. Directed by Lewis Milestone. From the John Steinbeck tale. Music by Aaron Copland.
Truly one of the unsung triumphs of 1939, this heartfelt adaptation of John Steinbeck's morality tale of two itinerant migrant workers seems just as fresh and powerful decades after its release. Lon Chaney Jr. gives the performance of a lifetime as the sweet yet feeble-minded Lennie, who is befriended by the weary Burgess Meredith. They both would be lost without each other in a rather mixed-up world. Sensitively directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front), the film features the first pre-credit sequence in American film history. There's also a nice score by Aaron Copland. --Bill Desowitz