Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men with an eye toward the theater, and he produced a script for stage production in 1937. The Broadway play opened that year, and won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. In 1939 the novel was adapted into a movie directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Burgess Meredith, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Betty Field. Chaney gave an excellent performance as Lennie. By 1939 standards, the language was racy and the subject matter questionable, and the film did not do well at the box office. It is the most faithful screen adaptation of any of Steinbeck’s novels. A reasonably well done 1981 made-for-television production starred Robert Blake and Randy Quaid.
Of Mice and Men is only one of several of Steinbeck’s books set in the Salinas Valley in California and focusing on the plight of the less fortunate in the region. Tortilla Flat highlights the Mexican community in the area; In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath dramatize the plight of the farmers and migrant workers during the Great Depression.