Of Mice and Men (play)

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Of Mice and Men
First edition (1937)
Written by John Steinbeck
Date premieredNovember 23, 1937
Place premiered Music Box Theatre, New York City
Original languageEnglish
Genre Tragedy drama
SettingAn agricultural valley in Northern California

Of Mice and Men is a play adapted from John Steinbeck's 1937 novel of the same name. The play, which predates the Tony Awards and the Drama Desk Awards, earned the 1938 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play.



The 1937 production opened while the novel was still on best seller lists. [1] At the time, George S. Kaufman was the top director in the country. [2] While the play follows the novel closely, Steinbeck altered the character of Curley's Wife, perhaps in response to criticisms from friends. In the play, Curley's wife does not threaten to have Crooks lynched, and in her final scene she talks of her childhood and her father trying to run away with her. This has the effect of softening her character, portraying her as lonely and misunderstood. [3]


Wallace Ford and Broderick Crawford in the original Broadway production of Of Mice and Men (1938) Ford-Crawford-Of-Mice-and-Men-1938-cropped.jpg
Wallace Ford and Broderick Crawford in the original Broadway production of Of Mice and Men (1938)

George, an affable migrant farm worker, and Lennie, a towering simple-minded pleasantly humble young man, are the subjects. They are bound by George's devotion and Lennie's "pathetic helplessness". George's guardianship keeps Lennie out of trouble, but we soon see this is a slippery slope. Lennie's displays of love result in several deaths ranging from mice and puppies to a beautiful woman. Eventually, in the face of a lynch mob, George kills Lennie to put him out of his misery. [1]


Steinbeck adapted the play from the novel. [4] [1]

The play had its world premiere circa October 1937 by the San Francisco Theatre Union [5] The play premiered on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on November 23, 1937, and closed in May 1938 after 207 performances. Directed by George S. Kaufman, the cast starred Broderick Crawford as Lennie and Wallace Ford as George. In 1939 the production was moved to Los Angeles, still with Wallace Ford in the role of George, but with Lon Chaney, Jr., taking on the role of Lennie. Chaney's performance in the role resulted in his casting in the movie.

There have been several revivals, the most recent produced in 2014, directed by Anna D. Shapiro with James Franco (George), Chris O'Dowd (Lennie) [6] and Leighton Meester (Curley's Wife). [7]

By the Book Theatre's production won 6 Brickenden Awards including Outstanding Drama, Director, Set Design, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Lighting Design. [8]

TheatreOpening DateClosing DatePerfs.Details
Music Box Theatre, BroadwayNovember 23, 1937May 1938207 [4] Broadway debut
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, BroadwayDecember 18, 1974February 9, 197561 [9] Broadway revival
Union Square Theatre, Off-Broadway October 7, 1987December 6, 198767 [10] Off-Broadway revival
Longacre Theatre, BroadwayApril 16, 2014July 27, 2014118 [11] [6] Broadway revival

Historical casting

The following tables show the casts of the principal original productions:

RoleMusic Box
1937 [4]
Brooks Atkinson
1974 [9]
Union Square
1987 [10]
2014 [12]
George Milton Wallace Ford Kevin Conway John Savage James Franco
Lennie Small Broderick Crawford James Earl Jones Jay Patterson Chris O'Dowd
Candy John F. Hamilton Stefan Gierasch Edward Seamon Jim Norton
Slim Will Geer David Gale Mark Metcalf Jim Parrack
Curley Sam Byrd Mark Gordon Clifford Fetters Alex Morf
Curley's wife Claire Luce Pamela Blair Jane Fleiss Leighton Meester
Crooks Leigh Whipper Joe Seneca Roger Robinson Ron Cephas Jones
Carlson Charles Slattery Pat Corley Matthew Locricchio Joel Marsh Garland
Whit Walter Baldwin James Staley Ron Perkins James McMenamin
The Boss Thomas Findlay David Clarke Joseph Warren Jim Ortlieb


The production was chosen as Best Play in 1938 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle. [13] The 2014 production earned two Tony Award nominations at the 68th Tony Awards (O'Dowd—Leading Actor and Japhy Weideman—Lighting Design). [14]


Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote that "Steinbeck has caught on paper two odd and lovable farm vagrants whose fate is implicit in their characters." [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Atkinson, Brooks (November 24, 1937). "John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men in a Production Staged by George S. Kaufman". The New York Times . p. 20. As cited in McElrath, Joseph R. Jr; Jesse S. Crisler; Susan Shillinglaw, eds. (2009). John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge University Press. pp. 112–3. ISBN   978-0521114097 . Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  2. "193738 Theatre Season Boasts a Dozen Hits". Life . February 21, 1938. p. 30. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  3. Meyer, Michael J. (April 23, 2009). "The Essential Criticism of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men". p. 67. ISBN   9780810867345 . Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 "Of Mice and Men". IBDB.com . Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  5. Shedd, Margeret (October 1937). "Of Mice and Men". Theatre Arts. pp. 774–80.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help) as cited in McElrath, Joseph R. Jr; Jesse S. Crisler; Susan Shillinglaw, eds. (2009). John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge University Press. p. 109. ISBN   978-0521114097 . Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  6. 1 2 Gans, Andrew. James Franco and Chris O'Dowd Will Make Broadway Debuts in Revival of Of Mice and Men" Archived February 23, 2014, at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, November 26, 2013
  7. Gans, Andrew. "Leighton Meester Will Join James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Broadway Revival of 'Of Mice and Men'" playbill.com, December 9, 2013
  8. Belanger, Joe (January 25, 2016). "Brickendens shine light on London's best and brightest". The London Free Press . Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  9. 1 2 "Of Mice and Men". IBDB.com . Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  10. 1 2 "Of Mice and Men". Lortel Archive. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  11. "Of Mice and Men | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". ibdb.com. Archived from the original on February 9, 2014.
  12. "Of Mice and Men". IBDB.com . Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  13. "Past Awards". New York Drama Critics' Circle . Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  14. "List of winners from the 2014 Tony Awards". USA Today . June 8, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2014.

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