Monday, October 12, 2009
Okay, so I'm a pushover for Errol Flynn and Ida Lupino separately, but together, they might have been even more magnetic. My rational self knows that 70 % of this is claptrap, but I've liked this movie since first seeing it as a kid, though I can't explain why all the elements beguile me. The people behave in contradictory ways, (which is a more realistic aspect of the script), and the story doesn't always gel despite director Peter Godfrey's spirited attempt to weave it together, but there is something about the spectacle of this turn of the century story that is enjoyable--at least for me.
In my month of character actor profiles on the Movie Morlocks, an exceptional actor, Roman Bohnen, from the Group Theatre was featured this last week there. The piece begins below:
I had to laugh a bit when I saw Of Mice and Men (1939) on TCM recently. My amusement was not because of the still tender spot that this very American story touched on in the course of the film. Themes of loneliness, the longing for new beginnings and a home of one’s own are evergreen, but few would have predicted that this seventy year old tale is still controversial. The film, based on the novella and play by John Steinbeck, was critically hailed when it first came to theaters, receiving four Academy Award nominations, including that of Best Picture in that celebrated movie year of 1939.
At the same time, in its day, the novel, play and film were all dismissed by one unnamed critic in the conservative publication, The Catholic World, who wrote that “The first few pages nauseated me [so much] that I couldn’t bear to keep it in my room over night.” In June, 1939, the Providence, Rhode Island’s police bureau refused to license the film for exhibition in that city, describing the story as “lowdown”. A Christmas Eve showing of the movie at Ft. McClellan in December, 1939 prompted an Army chaplain to condemn this story as “morbid and degenerate”. February, 1940 saw Of Mice and Men banned from the entire continent of Australia.
Even in the 21st century, Steinbeck’s story Of Mice and Men is still being banned periodically by some library system or school board. A high school in St. Louis recently discussed the removal of the book from their reading lists because the language in the book included words that we would describe as “politically incorrect” today. I couldn’t help wondering how amused one of the actors in this film, Roman Bohnen, (seen at left) a veteran of one of the more politically controversial acting troupes in American history up to that time, might have been to see this fresh controversy. Swimming against the prevailing tide was all in a day’s work for Bohnen...more