The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946 film)
|The Postman Always Rings Twice|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Produced by||Carey Wilson|
|Screenplay by||Harry Ruskin
|Based on||the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain
|Music by||George Bassman
|Editing by||George White|
|Running time||113 minutes|
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 drama-film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. This adaptation of the novel features Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, and Audrey Totter. It was directed by Tay Garnett, with a score written by George Bassman and Erich Zeisl (the latter uncredited).
This version was the third filming of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but the first under the novel's original title and the first in English. Previously, the novel had been filmed as Le Dernier Tournant (The Last Turning) in France in 1939, and as Ossessione (Obsession) in Italy in 1943.
Frank Chambers (John Garfield) is a drifter who stops at a rural diner for a meal, and ends up working there. The diner is operated by a beautiful young woman, Cora Smith (Lana Turner), and her much older husband, Nick (Cecil Kellaway).
Frank and Cora start to have an affair soon after they meet. Cora is tired of her situation, married to a man she does not love, and working at a diner that she wishes to own. She and Frank scheme to murder Nick in order to start a new life together without her losing the diner. Their first attempt at the murder is a failure, but they eventually succeed.
The local prosecutor, Kyle Sackett (Leon Ames), suspects what has occurred, but doesn't have enough evidence to prove it. As a tactic intended to get Cora and Frank to turn on one another, he tries only Cora for the crime. Although they do turn against each other, a clever ploy from Cora's lawyer (Hume Cronyn) prevents Cora's full confession from coming into the hands of the prosecutor. With the tactic having failed to generate any new evidence for the prosecution, Cora benefits from a plea bargain in which she pleads guilty to manslaughter and receives probation.
Frank and Cora eventually patch together their tumultuous relationship, and now plan for a future together. But as they seem to be prepared finally to live "happily ever after", Cora dies in a car accident, while Frank is driving. Although it was truly an accident, the circumstances seem suspicious enough that Frank is accused of having staged the crash. He is convicted of murdering Cora and is sentenced to death.
When informed that his last chance at a reprieve from his death sentence has been denied, and thus his execution is now at hand, Frank is at first incredulous that he will be put to death for a crime of which he is innocent. But when informed that authorities have recently discovered irrefutable evidence of his guilt in the murder of Nick, Frank decides that his impending death is actually his overdue punishment for that crime, despite his official conviction being for the murder of Cora.
Frank contemplates that when a person is expecting to receive a letter, it is of no concern if at first he does not hear the postman ring the doorbell, because the postman will always ring a second time, and that second ring will invariably be heard. After they escaped legal punishment for Nick's murder, but nonetheless with Cora now dead and Frank on his way to the death chamber, he notes that the postman has indeed rung a second time for each of them.
- Lana Turner as Cora Smith
- John Garfield as Frank Chambers
- Cecil Kellaway as Nick Smith
- Hume Cronyn as Arthur Keats
- Leon Ames as Kyle Sackett
- Audrey Totter as Madge Gorland
- Alan Reed as Ezra Liam Kennedy
- Jeff York as Blair
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased the rights to make a movie adaptation of Cain's novel a full 12 years prior the film's release. They were dissuaded from moving forward with the project earlier because of fears that its themes of adultery and murder would run afoul of the Motion Picture Production Code that began to be rigorously enforced not long after they had acquired the rights. The studio finally decided to proceed with the film in 1944, upon observing the success of Paramount's film adaptation of Cain's novella Double Indemnity, which included much the same moral taboos.
Bosley Crowther, film critic of the New York Times, gave the film a positive review and lauded the acting and direction of film, writing, "Too much cannot be said for the principals. Mr. Garfield reflects to the life the crude and confused young hobo who stumbles aimlessly into a fatal trap. And Miss Turner is remarkably effective as the cheap and uncertain blonde who has a pathetic ambition to 'be somebody' and a pitiful notion that she can realize it through crime. Cecil Kellaway is just a bit too cozy and clean as Miss Turner's middle-aged spouse. He is the only one not a Cain character, and throws a few scenes a shade out of key. But Hume Cronyn is slyly sharp and sleazy as an unscrupulous criminal lawyer, Leon Ames is tough as a district attorney and Alan Reed plays a gum-shoe role well."
Critic Stephen MacMillan Moser appreciated Lana Turner's acting and wrote, "It is perhaps her finest work—from a body of work that includes very few truly stellar performances. She was a star, and not necessarily an actress, and because of that, so much of her work does not stand the test of time. She is best remembered for the spate of films like Peyton Place and Madame X that traded on her personal tragedies, but Postman, which predates all that, is a stunner—a cruel and desperate and gritty James Cain vehicle that sorely tests Lana's skills. But she succeeds marvelously, and from the first glimpse of her standing in the doorway in her white pumps, as the camera travels up her tanned legs, she becomes a character so enticingly beautiful and insidiously evil that the audience is riveted."
- Le Dernier Tournant (1939 French film) directed by Pierre Chenal
- Ossessione (1943 Italian film) directed by Luchino Visconti
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981 film) directed by Bob Rafelson
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1982 opera)
- Jerichow 2008 German film directed by Christian Petzold (in German)
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- Mankiewicz, Ben. (2011, August 5). The Postman Always Rings Twice, Turner Classic Movies
- Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "The Postman Always Rings Twice, With Lana Turner in a Star Role," May 3, 1946. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
- MacMillan Moser, Stephen. The Austin Chronicle, film/video review, December 29, 2000. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: January 26, 2009.
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- The Postman Always Rings Twice at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at the Internet Movie Database
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at allmovie
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at the TCM Movie Database
- The Postman Always Rings Twice at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Postman Always Rings Twice film trailer at YouTube
- The Postman Always Rings Twice on Screen Guild Theater: June 16, 1947
- The Postman Always Rings Twice on Hollywood Sound Stage: January 24, 1952