Thursday, May 3, 2012

185. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Tay Garnett
Written By: Harry Ruskin, from novel by James M. Cain
Main Cast: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames
Click here to view the trailer


Moving right along with “Seven Shadows”, we come to “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, one that I was really looking forward to, but one that actually ended up disappointing me, just a little bit.

Frank (Garfield) is a drifter, sticking up his thumb and bumming rides from town to town, blaming his hitchhiking behavior on his “itchy feet” and resistance to settle down. When the film opens, he’s coming to the end of his free ride with District Attorney Sackett (Ames), who has taken him as far as Twin Oaks, a small roadside diner. Coincidentally when they get there, there’s a “MAN WANTED” sign hanging out front and Frank takes the job, at the insistence of the owner, Nick (Kellaway). It doesn’t take long for Frank to meet the lady of the house, Cora (Turner), a vivacious blonde who married the much older Nick to get out of poverty. Frank has an immediate attraction to her, but she sees him as nothing more than a hired hand and isn’t shy about throwing her weight around. Frank keeps up, trying his best to win her over, possibly steal a kiss or even get an admiring glance. Before too long, Cora does warm up to Frank – in fact, she warms up to him so much that she confesses her love for him. The two leave a note in Nick’s cash register, stating that they’re running away together, but after a few hours on the road, they change their mind – Cora citing that she’s not willing to return to a life of poverty. Later, as the two return to the Twin Oaks, they concoct a scheme to murder Nick, not necessarily for money, but so their love can flourish without Nick in the way. Of course, the fact that Cora will inherit the Twin Oaks and everything Nick owns doesn’t hurt to support their motive.

Let’s tackle the good first and then I’ll talk about my disappointment. You just can’t talk about the good features of this film without mentioning Lana Turner. This was my first time encountering Turner on the silver screen, but what a sexy woman – one who grabbed your attention simply with her presence on the screen. John Garfield wasn’t bad either, but my other pick for best member of the cast has got to be Hume Cronyn as the sleazy lawyer Arthur Keats. Maybe sleazy isn’t the best word to describe Keats, but this was a guy that could make your skin crawl and Cronyn played him to perfection. The basic plot was also key in my enjoyment of the picture, as a drifter falls in love with a man’s wife and the two scheme to try and get the husband out of the way. That just sounds like a good movie to me, no matter what elements are put into play. In the case of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, however, I think there are too many elements put into play.


Now far be it from me to attack the writing of James M. Cain, but please allow me to voice my opinions on where this movie veered for me. For my money, it should have been kept as simple as possible. Everything just got underway too fast. It isn’t even thirty-five minutes before Frank and Cora are professing their love for each other and scheming to kill Nick, when just ten minutes prior, Cora wanted nothing to do with this glorified maintenance man. Perhaps, Cora, at first, was afraid to let herself fall in love with Frank, knowing the trouble that would come about if she did. Knowing that she’d either be back to living in poverty or knowing that Nick would have to be gotten rid of. Perhaps, they could’ve examined this more thoroughly, using some dialogue to express Cora’s resistance. Then you slowly build the love affair to the point that Cora just can’t resist anymore and she’s forced to give in to her temptations of Frank. The affair continues for weeks before the two plot anything, escaping to the beach day after day and night after night to be alone, without Nick. They think nothing of trying to bump him off until they realize that they can’t hide their love in the shadows anymore and they must let it flourish. Then they kill Nick and we get scene after scene of suspense, as Sackett and the cops investigate, snooping around the Twin Oaks and trying to uncover a plot. That would have been a better movie, for my money. As it is, we get everything established too early and spend the rest of the film examining, what sometimes turn out to be, ridiculous plot lines. For instance, they plot to kill him the first time and he ends up living, then Frank runs away, then he comes back, then they Frank and Cora hate each other, then they love each other, then they hate each other again…it’s just a big, jumbled mess, at times. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, on the contrary actually. I did like it, but I saw a lot more potential, as I normally do with films that I like, but that don’t go the way I want. I’m just like a child who doesn’t get his way and this is my venue for complaining about it. Let’s just call that a review and I’ll start the process of letting this one stew in my head until TOP 20 time rolls around.

RATING: 7/10  Very good, but it was a potential ‘10’ that just didn’t pan out. Next up: “The Killers”. 


April 4, 2012  11:56am
PUBLISHED: May 3, 2012  12:00pm

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