In Tay Garnett’s 1946 The Postman Always Rings Twice, Cora Smith (Lana Turner) is married to Nicholas Smith (Cecil Kellaway) who owns a side road petrol station/diner. Frank Chambers (John Garfield), a man “whose feet are always itching to hit the road”, stops at the diner for employment. His method of arriving is catching a ride by way of hitchhiking. The driver, Frank later learns, is District Attorney Sackett.
Frank and Cora start an affair and soon plot the death of her husband. The first attempt fails but the second attempt is a success. But the cunningness of Cora’s attorney Arthur Keats (Hume Cronyn), the relationship between Frank and Cora become strained until one of them end up dead and the other charged with murder.
There might be more symbolism within the movie for film noirs are full of symbolism, in my opinion, but the one that stood out for me was Cora wardrobe. Throughout a good portion of the movie, Cora wore white, whether it was her waitress uniform, swimsuit or regular clothes. However, when Frank catches Cora in the kitchen holding a knife and the wheels turning in her head plotting the death of her husband, she’s wearing black. The second time we see Cora in black is when she returns from Ohio after her mother dies. The last time she is wearing back is when she’s about to leave Frank. Even when she’s in court on murder charges, early on in the film, she’s wearing white.
I really enjoyed the film. I’ve always liked old black and white movies. To me, a lot of attention was paid to the writing. The dialogue was the name of the game and the stories are well crafted. Directors kept things simple but with an even flow. The actors back then were theater trained and, for the most part, didn’t just show up out of the blue to become overnight successes.
There’s a 1981 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. If you’re into smut, then watch the 1981 version. If like a well-done movie with plenty of dialogue, great writing and directing, then the 1946 version is for you.