Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

is all over the map.

This film noir steers into melodrama, courtroom drama and a very strange love story.

Frank Chambers (John Garfield) has itchy feet. This guy keeps moving from town to town, job to job.

When he gets dropped off at a roadside diner, he finally finds a reason to stay in one place for awhile.

Business owner Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway) needs a hired hand to pump gas and serve burgers to customers. It's not so much Nick's offer of employment, but his drop-dead gorgeous young wife Cora (Lana Turner) that Frank likes.

Turner makes a great screen entrance when her tube of lipstick rolls down the cafe floor to Frank. The camera pans along the floor and up to Cora's very nice legs.

Frank doesn't waste much time making a move on Mrs. Smith. These two characters supposedly love each other, but it looks more like lust.

Cora and Frank conspire to off clueless Nick. This chap has no clue of the illicit goings-on with his wife and the hired help.

Now, this is a film noir so chances are things are not going to work out as planned. A first attempt to off Nick is botched. District attorney Kyle Sackett (Leon Ames) gets suspicious about Frank's activities at the roadside business. A court case and legal wranglings follow.

Hume Cronyn shines as defence attorney Arthur Keats. Present-day audiences know him for Ron Howard's Cocoon. But check out his dramatic work in The Postman Always Rings Twice. He's cocky. He's conniving. He pulls off some great strategic moves in the courtroom.

Keats taps ex-cop Ezra Kennedy (Alan Reed) for some help to save his case. There are a few moments in Postman when reality seems to be miles away from what happens on the screen. Watching Frank whup a beefy police officer is one of them.

Postman keeps turning in directions audiences may not expect. This movie-goer was shaking his head at times thinking things were getting a little silly on this screen take on James M. Cain's book. The twist ending has some punch and we finally get to hear the postman reference.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: John Garfield and Cecil Kellaway are both two-time Academy Award nominees. Garfield was recognized for his work in Body and Soul and Four Daughters. Kellaway received nods for The Luck of the Irish and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Leon Ames' last role was in Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).

Actress Audrey Totter is still alive. She played Madge Gorland, the woman Frank picks up when Cora leaves town, in The Postman Always Rings Twice. She'll celebrate her 94th birthday on Dec. 20, 1918. Totter, like Cronyn, has a smaller role but she definitely stands out in this film. Wow.

Alan Reed is the voice of Fred Flintstone.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Garfield died in 1952. He was just 39.

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