The Postman Always Rings Twice In 1946 And 2020
This celebrated 1946 film noir is one of several adaptations on screen of James Cain's 1934 noir novel of the same name. Tay Garnett directed this film of murder, smoldering passion and adultery. Lana Turner starred as Cora Smith, the young unhappy wife of Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), the owner of a shabby hamburger joint and gas station, the Twin Oaks, on the road to Los Angeles. The third member of this triangle is Frank Chambers (John Garfield), a drifter with "itchy feet" and with no particular plan or place to go in his 20s. Frank has hitched a ride and is dropped off at the Twin Oaks where Nick offers him a job. In an early scene of the movie Frank meets Cora, from her beautiful legs and up, as she comes down the stairs dressed in white. A torrid sexual affair develops, and soon Cora and Frank are plotting and attempting the murder of the unfortunate Nick.
Roughly the first half of the movie is about the developing relationship between Frank and Cora and the murder of Nick while the second half involves court proceedings against the lovers and their aftermath. Leon Ames (Kyle Sackett) is the prosecuting attorney while Hume Cronyn plays the wily defense attorney for Cora, Arthur Keats. The prosecutor tries to divide the two lovers, setting their legal interests against one another. While both avoid jail, the hostility and mistrust between the two continues even while they marry to protect themselves. Frank and Cora are in a car accident which results in Cora's death. Frank is tried, convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber.
This is a smoldering film noir with shadowy black and white scenes of lonely roads, cheerless hamburger stands, and Los Angeles markets. Lana Turner is a true femme fatale and radiates sexuality, anger, and frustration and chemistry with the young, handsome Frank. The film tells the story of isolated people with limited prospects who try to get from life what they can. The violent sexuality together with some of the racial implications of Cain's novel had to be toned down for Hollywood. Even though the film departs from the book in many ways, it is a classic work in its own terms and a prime example of film noir.
I read Cain's book in 2009 as I was developing an interest in noir novels and films which has continued through the years. I have seen many noir films since that time but saw "The Postman Rings Twice" only in 2020. This film is a must for admirers of James Cain and for lovers of film noir.