Timeline of Adaptations
A remarkable number of Steinbeck's works were adapted for stage and screen over the course of more than seventy-five years. His novella Of Mice and Men (1937) became a popular and award-winning Broadway production and successful movie twice. John Ford’s film adaptation of Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), released in 1940, has become one of the undisputed classics of American stage and film, and Tom Joad’s farewell speech is one of American cinema’s most iconic scenes.
Below you will find a timeline of major stage and screen adaptations of Steinbeck's works. Stage adaptations are in maroon while screen adaptations are in blue.
Press CTRL+F to locate the name of a work or a specific year.
1937: Of Mice and Men premieres as a play on Broadway, adapted by Steinbeck himself from his novella published that same year. Directed by George S. Kaufman.
1939: First film adaptation of Of Mice and Men, based on Steinbeck's 1937 novella. Directed by Lewis Milestone.
1940: Film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, released just one year after the book's debut. Directed by John Ford.
1941: The Forgotten Village, a documentary written by Steinbeck and directed by Herbert Kline and Alexander Hammid.
1942: Film adaptation of Tortilla Flat, based on Steinbeck's 1935 book. Directed by Victor Fleming.
1942: The Moon is Down opens as a play on Broadway.
1943: Film adaptation of The Moon is Down, based on Steinbeck's 1942 novella/play. Directed by Irving Pichel.
1944: Lifeboat was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on a script by Steinbeck, although Steinbeck was mortified by the film and ultimately did not want his name associated with it.
1945: A Medal for Benny, a film based on a script cowritten by Steinbeck and Frank Butler. Directed by Irving Pichel.
1947: La perla (The Pearl), a Mexican film adaptation of Steinbeck's novella published in the same year. Directed by Emilio Fernández with a screenplay cowritten by the director, Jack Wagner, and Steinbeck himself.
1949: Film adaptation of The Red Pony, based on Steinbeck's 1932 novella. Directed by Lewis Milestone.
1955: Film adaptation of East of Eden, based on the second half of Steinbeck's 1952 novel. Directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean as Cal in his first major role.
1955: Broadway premiere of Pipe Dream, a musical based on Sweet Thursday, the sequel to Cannery Row. Produced by the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein, but was a critical and financial failure.
1957: Film adaptation of The Wayward Bus, based on the 1947 novel. Directed by Victor Vicas.
1968: TV movie adaptation of Of Mice and Men. Directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring George Segal as George.
1968: Broadway premiere of Here's Where I Belong, based on the second half of East of Eden. Directed by Michael Kahn with the book by Alex Gordon and Terence McNally, who asked for his name to be removed from the credits. It closed after one performance.
1970: Opera version of Of Mice and Men premieres at the Seattle Opera, written and composed by Carlisle Floyd in 1969. This picture is from a 2003 production by the Utah Opera.
1981: Of Mice and Men, a second made-for TV adaptation of the novel. Directed by Reza Badiyi.
1982: Cannery Row, a film adaptation of both Steinbeck's 1945 novel and its sequel published in 1954, Sweet Thursday. Directed by David S. Ward.
1983: The Winter of Our Discontent, a film adaptation of the 1961 novel of the same title. Directed by Waris Hussein.
1992: Of Mice and Men, a second feature-length adaptation of the novel. Directed by Gary Sinise.
2001: The Pearl, a remake of the original 1947 film. Directed by Alfred Zacharias.
2014: Filmed Broadway production of Of Mice and Men. James Franco and Chris O'Dowd star in this adaptation directed by Anna D. Shapiro.
2016: Film adaptation of In Dubious Battle. Directed by and starring James Franco as well as Selena Gomez and Nat Wolfe.
Burrows, Michael. “John Steinbeck and His Films,” The Steinbeck Review 5.1. Penn State University Press (2008).