Lon Chaney Jr. had a long career, and people of my generation are fond of him for his numerous appearances in Universal horror films. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, and Chaney is very good there. Chaney was in his early thirties when he made Of Mice and Men, and the part of Lennie, which he had played on stage, seemed to fit him like a glove. But when he first played The Wolf Man two years later, he was typecast for life, and I don't know that he ever got the respect as an actor that someone like Boris Karloff did. And, of course, he had to deal with the fact that his father, Lon Chaney, was a colossus of silent film.
The film Of Mice and Men feels a bit stagy, even though we think of it today as the first film based on a John Steinbeck work. I suspect the stage version was in the film makers' mind. It doesn't matter ... the performances carry the film, and Aaron Copland's score, his first, helps as well. Essentially, Of Mice and Men is a buddy story, and it still works on that level.
Chaney is great, but don't sleep on Burgess Meredith, who also delivers. Like Chaney, Meredith connects with boomers on nostalgic grounds ... we know him as The Penguin from the Batman TV series from the 60s. And in the 70s, he was Rocky Balboa's trainer in several movies.
Chaney may be doubly cursed, though. His performance as Lennie became a part of popular culture because of its frequent use in cartoons. It's another nostalgic moment for boomers, for which one of us hasn't at some point asked, "Which way did he go, George?"