|Garfield and Turner|
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946). Director: Tay Garnett.
Cora Smith (Lana Turner) and her husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway) run a combination gas station and cafe, but their placid lives become unsettled when Nick hires a drifter named Frank (John Garfield) to help around the place. Cora and Frank are attracted to one another, and suddenly she can't see herself spending the rest of her life with her much older and unattractive husband, especially when he abruptly tells her that they're selling the restaurant [for which Cora had a lot of plans], moving in with his sister, and Cora will have to be nursemaid for the paralyzed woman for the rest of her life. [In other words, Nick is almost begging to be killed. His complete disregard for his wife's feelings makes him quite unsympathetic]. What happens next is a black comedy of errors, accusations, recriminations -- and murder. Although Lana Turner gave some good performances in later years, such as in A Life of Her Own, she's a little too unseasoned to make the most of Cora, although she isn't terrible. Garfield and Kellaway come off much better, of course [although they're hardly as pretty!] and they have some solid support from the likes of Leon Ames as a D.A., Hume Cronyn as a lawyer, and Audrey Totter as a gal who briefly dallies with Frank. The Postman Always Rings Twice is a good, entertaining picture -- much better than the dreadful remake with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson -- but somehow it's not quite a classic like the superior Double Indemnity, which was also taken from a James M. Cain novel. This Hollywood version takes a lot of liberties with the plot and characters, the usual case with Cain. For instance, in the novel the lovers were practically kids.
Verdict: Not the best adaptation of a Cain novel, but certainly not without merit. ***.