OF MICE AND MEN has been adapted four times so far, twice for the big screen, twice for TV. All of them are worthy, but I like to think this 1992 version, even with a few modifications, might be the one Steinbeck would be most happy with. A labor of obvious love from Gary Sinese, who starred (as ‘George’), directed, produced and enlisted his father, Robert L. Sinese, for the editing.
Sharilyn Fenn, as that darned ranch-vamp, and Casey Siemaszko as the little bastard, ‘Curly’, are the best interpretations to date of those errant fools. Ray Walston had a dream role as ‘Candy’, one deserving of at least an Oscar nomination. That wasn’t forthcoming, and Gene Hackman nailed the Supporting Actor laurel for Unforgiven. There was a bit of a kerfluffle as other nominees in that category—Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men) and Al Pacino (Glengarry Glen Ross )— had some feeling irked that these established leading men were muscled into a category usually reserved for players without a star on the sidewalk. Walston was cheated.
Aside from helping write the adaptation (Horton Foote is credited), and doing such an assured job directing, Sinese had a star-making shot as George, underplaying beautifully, and he resists the temptation to horn in on his exposure at the expense of others. John Malkovich takes ‘Lenny’ and makes it his own, with some risky flashes of brilliance that quash concerns over his being not physically imposing enough to get across the hulking aspect of the doomed man-child.
Featuring John Terry, Noble Willingham and Joe Morton, this is 115 minutes of Americana treasure, simple and unforced, doing honor to the immortal book. Dumped by the studio as too arty to attract a crowd, the $8,800,000 production only took in a gross of $5,000,000. “And we’re gonna live off the fat of the land.”