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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The name of the movie and the associated novel seem a bit strange when you consider the content of the novel. In the novel on which the movie is based, there is nothing to do with a postman, and there is no ringing of the bell or something similar. The name is seemingly more to do with the attempt of the author to find a great name for the book (and was seemingly derived from the fact that the postman would ring the bell twice to ensure that there was no doubt that the bell had been rung and the person would come to do the door; this was seemingly also based on the fact that the author was a struggling author whose manuscript had been rejected by 13 publishers, and he would wait for the postman to get the results). In the film, the title is used as a philosophical note in the end, when, sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, after having escaped any punishment for the murder that he did commit, the protagonist reflects that the second ringing of the bell by the postman was meant to signify that you will eventually get punishment, if not by the first ringing of the bell, then by the second. The movie was directed by Tay Garnett

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The book that the movie was based was called the same name 'The postman always rings twice' (published in 1934), written by James M Cain, and the fast paced and racy action (including the depiction of violence inspired by sexuality and adultery) was such that the book was banned in some locations. The book, however, is seen as a great crime novel of the 20th century, leading to this movie (with additional movies on the same theme down the years). The 1946 movie, starring Lana Turner, John Garfield, and Cecil Kellaway, is now seen as a film noir.
The movie is based on a story of a triangle of love, lust, deceit, ambition, and violence (the typical strong human emotions that cause all the problems in life). A drifter, Frank Chambers (John Garfield), stops at a local food diner, and then decides to work over there. The diner is being run by a couple, with the husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway) much older than the wife Cora Smith (Lana Turner). Cora is not in love with her husband, and soon she and Frank are having a sexual relationship, an adulterous relationship. She convinces Frank that she is being mistreated by Nick, and soon they decide to murder Nick in such a way that there is no suspicion on them, as well as Cora gets to own the diner.
Their first attempt fails, when they try to show that Nick drowned in his bathtub, but they are unsuccessful, and are only saved when Nick does not remember what happened. Their second attempt to simulate a car crash is more successful, and Nick does indeed die, seemingly a drunk driving accident where Frank and Cora are injured. Not enough evidence lies to tie them to the murder, and even though the prosecutor tries to play them one against the other (by only trying Cora and getting her to try and confess), they are let off with Cora getting a suspended sentence.
Freed from any possible legal punishment, Cora and Frank get together and plan a life with each other, when the irony of the movie exhibits its full face. Cora dies in a car accident, and it is made to seem that Frank is behind this action; he is prosecuted and sentenced to death for this crime. He is incredulous, he is totally innocent; however, as his execution approaches, he is convinced that it is his punishment for his earlier murder (and Cora dying in the car accident was her punishment).

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