THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946) – Murder in the lust degree


The following is my entry in my SEX! (now that I have your attention) BLOGATHON, devoted to movies that avoid graphic depictions of sex by suggesting it through dialogue and imagery. Click on the banner above to read bloggers’ critiques on a wide variety of such movies!

An American poster for the movie (left) beside its more risque French version.

An American poster for the movie (left) beside its more risque French version.

A famous line from Casablanca goes, “The problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” The Postman Always Rings Twice is a luridly perfect dramatization of that theme.

The movie concerns Frank (John Garfield), a drifter who happens upon a modest cafe off the beaten California track. The cafe is run by Nick (Cecil Kellaway), an affable old man content to drink his leisure time away. Far less satisfied with this blase lifestyle is Nick’s young wife Cora (Lana Turner), who first meets Frank while wearing as little clothing as the 1946 censors would allow.

How little? This little.

How little? This little.

As happens in this kind of story, Nick and Cora begin at odds with each other, fall deep into lust, and then plot to do away with the unfortunate third party in the story. Do they succeed? It depends on your definition of success. And anyway, that’s not really what Postman is all about.

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The crux of the story occurs when Leon Ames and Hume Cronyn enter the movie as dueling attorneys. They both know their clients are guilty of something — even if they can’t really prove it — and their clients’ lives amount to so little, one attorney literally bets his client’s life against the other.

Ames and Cronyn.

Ames and Cronyn.

Postman is ostensibly about lust — especially as personified by Turner, thinly veiled in every sense. But in the end it’s about the inevitability of fate. Nick and Cora might be able to fool mere mortals, but by movie’s end, the gods have a few surprises for them.

This is film noir at its finest, full of lurking shadows and expressionist images. And it’s beautifully acted. Turner’s later attempts at depth failed, but when it comes to pouty lust, she has no peer. The finest turn, however, is by Hume Cronyn as one of the oily lawyers who proves that, as Cora should have learned, it’s not about the money. (Also look for Cronyn’s crony, played by Alan Reed, who later gained cartoon immortality as the voice of Fred Flintstone.)
Due to the 1940’s Production Code (read, micromanaging censors), it took Postman 12 years to make it from novel to movie. (Perhaps the movie’s biggest surprise is that it was produced by squeaky-clean M-G-M, which bought the rights to James M. Cain’s original novel and then feared to film it because of its daring themes. The studio finally went ahead with the movie after noting the success of the similarly themed Double Indemnity, also based on a novel by Cain. Nevertheless, M-G-M studio head Louis B. Mayer despised the movie, to no one’s surprise.)

Yet in terms of sexiness (and life lessons), this movie is miles ahead of the more graphic 1981 remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. Keep a handkerchief handy as you sweat over the original sweater girl and the hopeless, hapless plight of her and her erstwhile lover.

All right, Lana, show's over. Zip it back up.

All right, Lana, show’s over. Zip it back up.

The SEX! (now that I have your attention) BLOGATHON is finally here!


Blogging foreplay is over. It’s finally time for the SEX! (now that I have your attention) BLOGATHON!

For the uninitiated (by which I intend a light double-entendre), this blogathon’s subject is movies that are devoted to artistically suggesting the subject of sex, through imaginative dialogue and imagery, rather than graphically depicting it. Any old movie can show you a beautiful naked body, but the “horse” dialogue in The Big Sleep? Let’s see Scarlett Johansson show that off in her cleavage!

Below are the participants in the blogathon, which runs from Fri., June 19 through Sun., June 21, 2015. The only set deadline is that the participants must have their entries posted by the end of the day on June 21.

If you are one of the participants, please scroll down to the “Comments” section and post the URL of your SEX! blog entry; once you have posted it, it will be linked to the listing of participants shown below.

If you are a visiting reader, the following list has links to both the blog entries and the blogs themselves. Even if a particular entrant’s SEX! blog isn’t posted as yet, I encourage you to visit each and all of these blogs, as they all have something unique and entertaining to say about a variety of movie-related topics. (And of course, definitely check out their entries for this blogathon!)

Have fun, everyone! Here is the list of SEX! BLOGATHON entries:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

BNoirDetour – Born to Kill (1947)

Criterion Blues – Ingmar Bergman’s Summers with Monika (1953)

Moon in Gemini – Blood and Sand (1941)

A Shroud of Thoughts – Pillow Talk (1959)

CineMaven – The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

Outspoken and Freckled – She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Reel Distracted – The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Shadows and Satin – Design for Living (1933)

Portraits by Jenni – Ball of Fire (1941) – Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Defiant Success – The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

The Fluff Is Raging – Double Indemnity (1944)