The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

"Excellent"

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Review


Lana Turner - or, more precisely, her legs - are the star of the first film adaptation of James M. Cain's classic novel, released in 1946. Frank Chambers, a restless drifter, arrives in a roadside restaurant run by Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway). A tube of lipstick drops from the counter and rolls slowly to the feet of Nick's wife Cora (Turner). So begins one of the most lascivious upward pans of '30s and '40s film, climbing up Turner's legs and torso to her lit-from-the-inside golden-tressed face. There's more eroticism in that moment than in most of Bob Rafelson's ill-advised 1981 remake, which pretended to be a sexier, lustier adaptation.

The plot of Postman is, indeed, sexier than usual - the perceived naughtiness of Cain's original, excellent novel got it a "Banned in Boston" stamp. But toned down for the screen, Postman is mainly an excellent noir that's fueled by one of John Garfield's best performances. As Frank and Cora fall deeper into their romance, they begin to plan doing away with Nick. The first attempt sadly and (thanks to a clumsy shot of an electrocuted cat) hilariously fails to take, but the second works out ghoulishly. From there, the story becomes a noir classic of shifting loyalties, betrayal, and paranoia. Few actors of the time were as good as portraying the decent man in a conundrum, but there's something about the combination of Garfield's mannish broad shoulders and childish eyes that make him perfect for noirs. Body and Soul is his finest hour, but Postman is worth Garfield as well.

He's helped by two actors in smaller roles. As Sackett, the D.A. who's wise to Nick and Cora's plot, Leon Ames uses one of the best knowing smirks in the business. And Alan Reed, playing the heavy trying to muscle in on Nick and Cora's newfound blood money, drives one of noir's better nose-bloodyings. And he arrives at the precise point where we as viewers start distrusting both of our young lovers. Money changes everything, they say, and the genius of Cain's novel and Garnett's adapation is in capturing the small things - Turner's eyes getting a littler harder, Garfield's a little more anxious. They never catch much fire as a couple, but they're a joy to watch separately.

Cain's original novel never explained its title - there are no postmen around to ring anything. But Garnett's version gives it a whirl, in a final monologue from Garfield that is one of the more poignant speeches about love, death, and second chances. People who know Postman only from the Jack Nicholson-Jessica Lange version might find this a bit more wooden. But what it lacks in sex it gains in passions of other sorts. It smolders.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Thriller

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Tay Garnett

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.