Wednesday, July 5, 2017


(Post 9 of 20) 

Lon Chaney Jr. and Burgess Meredith
in Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck's classic novel about two migrant workers looking to better themselves financially while staying out of trouble was first brought to the screen by Hal Roach productions in 1939, and starred Burgess Meredith as George. I think it's a successful adaptation of the novel...though some may prefer the 1992 version with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. At the very least read the book. It's a fine character study and and Steinbeck puts you right in the middle of the depression (as good books tend to do).

Totally unnecessary fact to share: I wanted to name our two dogs George and Lennie...but I was outvoted.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to...Lon Chaney Jr. 
Cinefiles love Lon Chaney, Sr...the man of a thousand faces, who created so many great characterizations during the silent era and died before his career in talkies could take off.

Lon Chaney Jr. carried on the family tradition of make-up heavy roles, but he is not held in reverence by the movie public like his dad. Part of that may be because of being in so many B-movies, especially later in his career in films like Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Alligator People and The Man With the Atomic Brain. His best know role is as The Wolfman, which he brought to life in Universal's 1941 adaptation.

However, it's his performance as Lenny, the feeble minded traveling companion of George in Of Mice and Men that may be his best. You feel sympathy for this gentle giant who can't stay out of trouble no matter how hard he tries. His journey ends in tragedy, of course. And anyone who's seen the movie or read the book is sure to remember George and Lenny's final dialogue:

George: [talking about their dream] We're gonna get a little place.  
Lennie: Okay, yeah, we're gonna get a little place and we're gonna...  
George: We're gonna...
George: [Lennie mouths what he says] We're gonna have a cow, and some pigs, and we're gonna have, maybe, maybe, a chicken. Down in the flat, we'll have a little field of... Lennie: Field of alfalfa for the rabbits. George: ...for the rabbits. 
Lennie:And I get to tend the rabbits?
(And we probably know what happens next.)

Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie 
in Of Mice and Men

Lon as the werewolf
in The Wolfman

Lon still loving cute little creatures in
the so bad it's good
Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

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