The best version of James M. Cain's torrid, hard-hitting romance comes to startling life under Garnett's shrewd direction, surprisingly at MGM. The studio threw in the towel on Turner's sweet parts and let her turn on the blowtorch and expose the seething passions. Although 1946 censors
assured some downplaying of the heat between the leads, from the moment surly Garfield sees the "Man Wanted" sign, and Turner's lipstick rolls tauntingly across the floor, we know we're in for dangerous pulp romance. By the time the camera tilts from Turner's foot to the top of her white-hot
visage, we know what the goods are and that Garfield's horny drifter is sold. If Turner is more girlish than Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, we also know it's a ruse she knows works with men.
Drifter Frank Chambers (Garfield) stops at a California roadside cafe owned by the amiable Nick Smith (Kellaway), who offers him a job as a handyman. Frank is disinclined toward such menial work until he catches a glimpse of Nick's siren wife, Cora (La Lana). He immediately takes the job and then
begins making advances to a most receptive lady. The two become lovers ("Give me a kiss or I'll sock ya!") but what are they going to do about Nick?
Except for two scenes in which Turner wears black (one when she contemplates suicide and the other when she goes to her mother's funeral), the alluring platinum blond actress wears nothing but white in the film, further propelling her haughty phosphorescent steaminess: this angelically venal
little trollop begged to be dirtied up. Though she is a femme fatale here, Turner is a softer, more emotionally vulnerable Lucrezia Borgia than her sisterly counterparts in other Cain stories. Even at the end she is seeking love, not revenge, telling Garfield after the murder that she wants
"kisses that come from life, not death." So impressed was Cain with Turner's performance that he presented her with a leather-bound first edition of the novel, inscribing it, "For my dear Lana, thank you for giving a performance that was even finer than I expected."
The critical and public response to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE was enormous. Turner and Garfield won kudos from the critics, and the supporting players, especially Ames and Cronyn, received plaudits. The studio announced in 1972 that it would remake this film noir classic, but delays in
casting and directing stalled the production until 1980 when Bob Rafelson took over the chore of directing Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. The remake was much less satisfying and much more crudely sexual, with Nicholson ravishing Lange on the kitchen table. For all the 80s heaving and pawing,
the 1946 version is far more suggestive.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The best version of James M. Cain's torrid, hard-hitting romance comes to startling life under Garnett's shrewd direction, surprisingly at MGM. The studio threw in the towel on Turner's sweet parts and let her turn on the blowtorch and expose the seething… (more)