While hitch-hiking his way to San Diego, drifter Frank Chambers stops at a little roadside gas station/hamburger joint just outside Los Angeles. Though the owner, Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), offers Frank employment as a handyman, Frank has no intention of staying any longer than it takes to grab a bite to eat---that is, until he gets a glimpse of Nick's beautiful wife, Cora (Lana Turner). Much younger than her husband, Cora immediately sets Frank's blood to pounding, and although she initially fights it, Cora is attracted to the handsome stranger as well. In short order, she gives in to her passion and embarks on an affair with Frank.
In love with Frank, Cora makes the decision to run off with him; however, they haven't gotten very far before she begins to have second thoughts. Since divorcing Nick would leave her with nothing, Cora refuses to go through with it. Instead, after a time, she convinces Frank that the only way for them to be together is to get Nick out of the picture by killing him. At first resistant to the idea, Frank eventually realizes Cora is right, and the two of them develop an elaborate scheme to bring about Nick's demise.
Their first attempt at murder doesn't go as planned, and with a highly suspicious D.A. (Leon Ames) bearing down on them, they struggle to cover their tracks. In due time, they have put together another plan---one which is successful---and the D.A., determined to convict them of their crime, pits one lover against the other. Where there once was love between them, suddenly there is hatred and mistrust. How it all plays out is the balance of the film. (I can't really say more than this without giving away too much of the plot.)
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a fantastic film, well-acted by all. Lana Turner is stunningly beautiful here (then again, I think she almost always was!), and she makes a perfect femme fatale...icy, aloof, and mesmerizing in her beauty. John Garfield is masculine, gorgeous, and oozing with virility. The chemistry between the two of them is incredible. No nude scenes necessary for them to exude passion and sensuality.
Really, they sizzled and smoked through this whole film, which wouldn't be anything amazing had I not known Lana Turner's opinion of working with Mr. Garfield. (I quite adore Lana and it was through watching a documentary about her a couple months ago that I learned her feelings about Garfield.) The two of them absolutely did not get along, and she was irritated that he had been given the role, saying, "Couldn't they at least hire someone attractive." Say what? Someone attractive? John Garfield not attractive? Oh, Lana, what were you thinking? Mr. Garfield is beyond attractive here...he's quite gorgeous really (in a rugged, sexy, masculine way). The older he got, the better looking he became, and at this point in his career, I think he was looking incredibly fabulous!
The supporting cast of Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, and Leon Ames is outstanding as well, with each man playing his part to perfection; Tay Garnett's direction is fantastic too. All in all, The Postman Always Rings Twice is an interesting, exciting, wonderful noir, and its final several minutes feature twists I never expected. How true it is to the novel, I don't know, but the film adaption, as written, is terrific.
The film is out on DVD, plus it is on the TCM schedule for Friday, June 29th, at 2:45 p.m. (ET). Fans of Turner, Garfield, and noir ought to totally love this film.