‘Of Mice and Men’ is a 1939 American drama film based on the 1937 novel and play of the same name by John Steinbeck. The film was produced by Hal Roach Studios, and directed by Lewis Milestone. This film took place when the great depression was happening, which means it deals with issues such as loneliness, poverty and unfulfilled dreams. Issues that illustrate particular social or political situations in the United States. The film’s score also introduced the audience to a modernist american expression.
The Great Depression was an economic slump that originated in the United States of America after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. This stock market crash initiated one of the longest and hardest economic declines in history. The crash had a worldwide impact. The Great Depression started big changes in the United States. It caused big unemployment, which grew rapidly as people kept losing their jobs. The situation was very serious in agriculture. Farmers suffered from low prices for their products even before the stock market crashed, and the depression affected them significantly. Many Americans started losing their homes and had to live on the streets. Herbert Hoover who was the president at the time tried to expand the role of the federal government in order to manage the Depression by taking several measures, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Its aim was to stimulate the nation’s economy, with the help of the federal government by lending money to banks and other businesses. However, the legislation ended up affecting the economy and was making things worse. The crisis influenced the political situation. The Great Depression changed the lives of all people in the United States.
The economic crisis raised people’s opinions on families’ lives. Since there were no jobs for all the people, many Americans believed that the man should go to work. And that If a woman was married she should not accept any job and should stay at home and take care of children. In the 1930s, people who owned property and were able to keep it and considered wealthy. In the film, a conflict between classes appears. Poverty and the lower class were represented by Lennie, George and other workers. While power and higher class is portrayed at Curley and his wife since they owned land.
During the Depression economic exploitation happened on ranches in the United States. At the ranch in the film, the situation was the same. There is a great amount of agricultural wealth and to make this wealth, farms needed workers. But the workers were paid low wages. Agriculture was already in crisis. In the 1930s, the situation worsened because the Mississippi valley suffered from record heat waves and below average rainfall, and the drought spread to the South and Midwest. The region of Great Plains became known as the “Dust Bowl”, as wind eroded millions of acres of cropland. The Dust Bowl lasted from 1931 to 1939 and it was a great natural and economic disaster. The Depression created poor people who ended up suffering from economic exploitation. Also, these workers did not have a place of their own and they were dependent on seasonal jobs. Which meant that they often had to drift to ranches to pick some fieldwork and to be able to support themselves as it was shown in the film. Which is what George and Lennie were doing.
‘Of Mice and Men’ focus on the labouring class in California. As illustrated in the characters in this film, it shows the devastating impact of the Great Depression on the nation’s society. Around this time the great depression made many americans experience poverty but as shown in the film some of the characters believed that they could still succeed economically and to fulfil their dreams. The film is set in Salinas Valley in California at the time of the Great Depression. It tells a story of two wage labourers and friends George Milton and Lennie Small, who travel around ranches in order to find a job. The characters are both different but they share the same dream. To have some land and farm of their own, where they will breed rabbits and other animals. Which many Americans at the time had similar dreams. Eventually, Lennie and George find work on a ranch in Salinas Valley. They are determined to work hard and stay there until they have earned enough money to make their dream come true. Lennie often got into trouble on previous ranches because of mental state. Migratory workers were usually isolated. They had no home or no property of their own. They would wander around ranches and they were dependent on the farm owners , as well as on the weather. If the weather was not good for agriculture, there were no jobs for these people. In some cases they would be homeless until the conditions changed. That is why it seemed so strange to Slim to see Lennie and George travel together. Around this time it was almost impossible to develop lasting friendship. The reason why George and Lennie stay together is their shared past. They were both born in the same town and had been friends since young. This friendship was beneficial for Lennie and George because they helped one another. George was the smarter one and takes care of Lennie and tries to keep him out of trouble. Lennie is mentally challenged and can be naive; but is extremely strong, so he works hard and carries heavy things on the fields. This friendship helps them to deal with their hard situation and aren’t as lonely as other migrant workers. Even when everything feels hopeless they do not give up, and still have hope that their dreams will come true. No matter how strong these friendships were, during the great depression society defeated them. Both Lennie and George’s, Candy and his dog’s friendship did not last and ended tragically which also meant that they didn’t get to fulfil their dream. These such as deals with issues such as loneliness, poverty, unfulfilled dreams, particular social or political situations in the US were the issues that I had mentioned that were happening at that time in history that impacted the film.
Writing movie music has been a full-time profession since the 1930s and is still a critical component in filmmaking. Composer Mark Isham created a score for ‘Of Mice and Men’ reminding of the music of Aaron Copeland in its distinctly American melodies composed largely of strings and woodwinds. In some sequences, “banjos lend the film a regional folk quality”. The score in the 1939 film Mice and men remains important because it introduced the audience to the modernist american expression that challenged the norm in Hollywood while inspiring it. The film was in B.W because it took place in 1939 and color film wasn’t introduced until later on in the 1940’s. The film created an interesting perspective for viewing cinematic realism. The editor used a juxtaposition of shots and a number of cuts to give each scene its own rhythm. The editor chose to quicken the action in other scenes of men working in the fields or playing horseshoes with quicker cutting the assembly of several shorter shots in rapid succession. Heighting the pace and reinforcing the action or emotion taking place on the screen.
Finally, this film is connected with a historical event. Through analysis, we were able not only to learn more about the history of cinema, but also about American history.