This play-like structure allowed the work to be quickly adapted to the stage, with the first production mounted on Broadway in 1937, the year of the novel's publication. This production was quite successful, and was directed by the famous playwright George S. Kaufman. The play was revived in 1974 with James Earl Jones in the role of Lennie. Of Mice and Men has also been frequently adapted into cinema - first in 1939, in a production directed by Lewis Milestone (who regularly and skillfully directed adaptations of literary works, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)), with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Lennie and Burgess Merideth as George. Most recently the novel was adapted in 1992, with Gary Sinise playing George and John Malkovich in the role of Lennie. This version was well-received by critics and regularly supplements high school English class units on the novel.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Set in the American West during the Great Depression, the book is based on Steinbeck's experiences during a 1936 assignment for the San Francisco News covering the migrant workers in California. Its two main characters, George and Lennie, embody the American struggle to survive the Depression—and capture the isolation and suffering that exist even in the land of opportunity. Despite its filthy-for-the-time language and a real downer of an ending, the book was popular right away, even being chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection before it was published. (That was something like being chosen for Oprah's book club.)