Classic Movie Reviews

Classic Review: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

One of the best noir movies ever made.

Synopsis: A married woman and a drifter fall in love, then plot to murder her husband. (IMDB)

Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, and Cecil Kellaway

Writers: Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch

Director: Tay Garnett

Rating: PG (Canada)

Running Time: 113 mins

Trailer:

Frank (Garfield) is a drifter who sees a ‘man wanted” sigh in front of a diner. He walks in and gets the position from Nick (Cecil Kellaway), the owner of the diner, and he meets his wife and waitress, Cora (Turner). Nick is much older than Cora and she is quite unsatisfied with her marriage. She and Frank are attracted to each other right away, and they soon start an affair. But Cora knows she can’t leave her husband. If Nick finds out about them he’ll kick her out without a single penny. She wants to be somebody, at least far more than she is right now. And she sees Nick as the embodiment of that impediment. So she suggests to Frank that they both should kill her husband; she’ll them inherit the dinner and they can finally be happy ever after. But there are some wrong turns in their way and Cora is not as innocent as her white frocks suggest.

Femme Fatales were a trademark of the 40’s. They were very popular especially because a lot of those films are true classics, such as Double Indemnity and Gilda. Cora Smith is one of the most memorable examples. She only dresses in angelical white, she lies her way through everything that been given to her and she completely manipulates the men around her. She’s a very resourceful character and a great one to watch, too.

Turner was never acknowledged for her talents, but this might be her greatest performance. Cora is a great character, showing us her true colors only when she desires to. We never really know what to expect from her, and Turner delivers all those nuances. It is especially remarkable because of her chemistry with Garfield. They play of each other very well, and it is palpable how attracted they feel. That heat between the two only turns the movie into a more remarkable experience. They are doing terrible things to each other – and with others – but you can’t deny there is always something lingering between these two.

There is more than just the sense of desire between these characters: this is a movie that is always unsettling. Tension and danger are pivotal to the narrative and you feel it throughout the story. You never know where the story is taking you and what will happen next. They are volatile lovers, so, anything goes. And that uneasiness is perfect for the genre.

Garfield is also perfect here. He was a great yet somewhat often underused actor. He is trapped in her web like the perfect fool and Garfield does a great job in portraying his discoveries while still being drawn to Cora.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is adapted from a novel by James M. Cain, the same author of Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce. Cain was a master of irony and in unexpected twists, and The Postman Always Rings Twice is full of it. Cora is a master puppeteer, but she is also completely manipulated by her lawyer (Hume Cronyn) and the District Attorney (Leon Ames). These two treat Cora and Frank as pawns in their own cruel chess game.

This is one of the best noir movies ever made. Gives you everything you expected of the genre and then some more. Great film.

Score: 8/10

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