The Postman Always Rings Twice

Director: Tay Garnett

1946

There is something magical about old black and white movies. I think it has to do with the way they are shot and lit that creates a soft glow around certain images – usually the female character.

R. Barton Palmer says “with white costuming and glamorizing lighting Turner becomes the visual center of the story” which is certainly true. She draws the eye in every scene she is in, not just because she is beautiful but because she is often the lightest part of a fairly dark screen. The decision to put Lana Turner’s Cora in white clothes gives her a sense of innocence – not something usually associated with the femme fatale in a film noir. Once Turner puts on a black costume towards the end of the film the difference is palpable – no longer is she the innocent victim she spent the majority of the film portraying. She also doesn’t draw attention in the same way, merging into the drab interiors of the diner.

In some ways Turner isn’t your typical femme fatale, with her feelings for Frank (John Garfield) seemingly genuine. Cora feels trapped in a somewhat boring marriage with an inattentive husband, which is heightened through the use of tight framing throughout. She is immediately drawn to Frank but tries to ignore the attraction while being pushed towards him unintentionally by her husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Cora only begins to assert herself when Nick announces his plan to sell their diner – setting off her journey to becoming a femme fatale in the proper sense of the word. At the beginning of the film there is a lack of any sort of manipulation which is a typical convention of the film noir genre.

Cora and Frank grow to resent one another due to their actions but ultimately resolve their issues. However like all other noir films there is a moral to the story – neither Cora or Frank live ‘happily ever after’ as there are consequences to ones’ actions. It’s fitting that Cora comes to the same end as the one utilized to cover up Nick’s murder.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is a slow burning film noir – indeed for the first 25 minutes plays more like a romance than a noir. Then comes the spark of idea about removing Nick from the picture and the film transforms into a more recognizably noir film. Even then the plot moves slowly. I have to say that I’m not a fan of The Postman Always Rings Twice as I find it plodding and pedestrian especially when you put it alongside other film noir movies.

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