The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981 film)

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The Postman Always Rings Twice
Postman always rings twice.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Rudy Obrero
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Produced by Bob Rafelson
Charles Mulvehill Andrew Braunsberg
Screenplay by David Mamet
Based on The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain
Starring Jack Nicholson
Jessica Lange
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Edited by Graeme Clifford
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 20, 1981 (1981-03-20)
Running time
122 minutes
Country United States
West Germany
Language English
Budget $12 million[1]
Box office $12,200,000

The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1981 American-German film adaptation of the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain. The film was produced by Lorimar in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer[2] and originally released theatrically in North America by Paramount Pictures. This version, based on a screenplay by David Mamet and directed by Bob Rafelson, starred Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. The film was shot in Santa Barbara, California.


Frank Chambers (Jack Nicholson) a drifter, stops at a rural California diner for a meal and ends up working there. The diner is operated by a young, beautiful woman, Cora Smith (Jessica Lange), and her much older husband, Nick Papadakis (John Colicos), who is an immigrant from Greece.

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 and improve. She and Frank scheme to murder Nick 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 suspects what has actually occurred but does not 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 turn against each other, a clever ploy from Cora's lawyer, Katz (Michael Lerner), 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 deal in which she pleads guilty to manslaughter and is sentenced to probation.

Months later, Frank has an affair with Madge Gorland (Anjelica Huston) while Cora is out of town. When Cora returns, she announces she is pregnant. That night, Katz's assistant, Kennedy (John P. Ryan), appears at their door and threatens to expose them unless they give him $10,000. Enraged, Frank beats Kennedy up and strong-arms him into giving up the evidence against them.

When Frank returns, he finds that Madge has been to see Cora, who threatens to turn him in. They eventually patch together their tumultuous relationship and now plan for a future together. However, just as they seem to be prepared for a new life together, Cora dies in a car accident while Frank is driving. Frank weeps over Cora's body.



On May 14, 2012 Intrada Records released Michael Small's complete score for the first time.

Release and reception[edit]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.[4] Upon release, the film was poorly received by many critics, who felt that the remake was wasted. They also believed the ending was "very weak" compared to the original film. They also criticized the fact that the meaning of the title is not explained in the remake, which can lead to confusion among viewers. Jack Nicholson later said "If you ran a question through this industry about The Postman Always Rings Twice, most people would surmise that it wasn’t successful. That is not true. I know it made money, because I received overages, so it must’ve grossed about as much as Chinatown and much more than Carnal Knowledge. But people are anxious to disqualify it.[5]

The film has since been received more favorably; it scores an 83% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 10 positive reviews and two negative. Kerry Segrave and Linda Martin praised the "charged chemistry" between Nicholson and Lange, and stated that Nicholson admitted that he was smitten with his co-star, remarking that she was a "big consensus movie sex bomb".[6] The film was nominated by the American Film Institute in 2002 for the AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions list.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Postman Always Rings Twice - Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2014-06-24. 
  2. ^ "The Postman always rings twice / an Andrew Braunsberg production; produced in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; produced by Charles Mulvehill and Bob Rafelson; directed by Bob Rafelson" (PA0000100011 / 1981-05-04). United States Copyright Office.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Postman Always Rings Twice". Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  5. ^ Walker, Beverly (May–June 1985). "Interview: Jack Nicholson". Film Comment. 
  6. ^ Segrave, Kerry; Martin, Linda (1990). The post-feminist Hollywood actress: biographies and filmographies of stars born after 1939. McFarland & Co. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-89950-387-5. 
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19. 

External links[edit]