Frank Chambers (John Garfield) is a drifter with itchy feet. He takes temporary work at a rural restaurant and gas station owned by Nicholas Smith (Cecil Kellaway) and his beautiful, much younger wife Cora (Lana Turner). One glance at the sultry blonde standing in the doorway of the kitchen and Frank is willing to unpack his bags—at least for a while.
But before long, the new employee starts fingering property that isn’t his—namely Nick’s wife. With Frank securely smitten, the calculating bride reveals her ambitions to make something of herself and her husband’s business. And she wheedles Frank into believing he is the man to help her do it. However to make her plan work, they need to get Cora’s husband out of the way.
When Nick is killed in a car accident, the local district attorney (Leon Ames) suspects the dry-eyed widow and her handyman/attendant. And so Cora and Frank are brought to trial. While trying to maintain their pre-rehearsed stories, the twosome is spurred on by their lawyers to turn on one another. Through some seemingly underhanded methods, Cora’s legal defender keeps her testimony out of the courtroom and the pair eventually walks free. But just because they aren’t behind bars doesn’t mean they are free of guilt. As time passes, the crime strains their turbulent relationship and they experience unexpected consequences that threaten their future.
Based on a 1934 crime novel by James M. Cain, the script underwent years of adaptations in order to bring the explicit book material into compliance with the 1940’s movie production standards. While the portrayals of murder and accidents are non-graphic, the script contains several discussions about killing. Sexual activity, while depicted primarily with passionate kisses between Cora and her lover, is alluded to along with sultry stances and innuendo.
Yet even with the revisions to the screenplay, the movie remains a haunting storyline of deceit, sexual desire and murder. Destined for tragedy, Cora and Frank never deserve a moment of sympathy for their choices. But the chilling outcome of their lives shows the devastating results that can come from one bad decision.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
Violence: A couple attempts to electrocute a man. Characters plot and carry out a murder. A woman contemplates suicide. A man is hit over the head with a liquor bottle. Lawyers threaten and bully clients. A man blackmails and threatens others. Characters fight resulting in a bloody facial injury. Some weapons are used. A character is killed in an automobile accident. A character faces the death chamber. The body of a dead cat is seen.
Sexual Content: A man becomes involved with another man’s wife. Several scenes of passionate kissing are seen. A woman wears a swimsuit at the beach. While explicit sexual depictions are not shown, the script includes frequent, subtle sexual innuendo. A "Man Wanted" sign plays on Cora’s sexual desires.
Language: A crude term for a policeman is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink, often to the point of drunkenness. Numerous characters also smoke. While driving under the influence of alcohol, a man nearly causes a traffic accident.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
What initial decision puts Frank on the path that ultimately costs him so much? Are there any points along the way that he could have changed the direction he was headed?
Despite her dark intentions toward her husband, Cora often wears white. How does this play against the stereotypical depictions of the time that good guys wore white and bad guys wore black? Does her clothing choice make her seem more evil?
The district attorney has his suspicions but loses his case because of a lack of evidence. Cora’s lawyer employs some underhanded methods to keep her from confessing. Does he impede justice by doing that? What responsibility do lawyers have when they know their client is guilty? How are consequences satisfied in this film?
Jurors battle over the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of murdering his father in the 1997 remake of the film 12 Angry Men. A chivalrous manis lured into danger when a young woman invites him into her home where he becomes the chief suspect after she is later murdered in 39 Steps.
Home Video Notes
Blu-ray Notes: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: 13 November 2012
The 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice releases on blu-ray on November 12, 2012.
Home Video Notes: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: 6 January 2004
The 1946 classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice, releases to DVD on January 6, 2004. The disc includes:
- Documentary: The John Garfield Story
- Introduction by film historian Richard Jewell
- Image gallery