The Postman Always Rings Twice
“The Postman Always Rings Twice” is a novel set in 1934 and is authored by James M. Cain (Hoopes 13). The novel was fairly successful but not of good reputation among publication houses and was considered as one of the most significant crime novels of the 20th century. Gripping and concise (not more than 120 pages long), the novel's combines sexuality and violent behavior which was astounding at that time. However it resulted in the book getting banned in Boston. However, its startling theme has earned the book a rank in Modern Library 100 Best Novels list (Modern Library 98). The novel’s original plot has been the central theme. Many movies inspired by the novel were made. Four motion films has been made directly based on the novel and out of these, the movie which was made in 1946 is the best, and is considered as a significant film.
Comparison of the Novel and its Movie Version
“The Postman Always Rings Twice” movie was released in 1946 and had Lara Turner and John Garfield playing the lead role. The movie was directed by Tay Garnett and Niven Busch and Harry Ruskin did the screenplay. The movie made its mark due to a very popular beginning. The movie starts with the Frank Chambers entering the cafe and the introduction of Cora with the rolling lipstick on floor scene. The scene is Frank is sitting in the cafe; a lipstick rolling on floor comes towards him and he bents down to pick it up. While he is looking at the lipstick to pick it up, he sees a pair of legs approaching towards the lipstick, & from legs his gaze moves to the face of the person following the lipstick. That person is Cora who bedazzles Frank and leave him stunned. He picks up the lipstick and asks Cora that does that lipstick belongs to her. This scene in movie became very popular. The entire introduction of Cora in the movie is quite legendary and sets the theme of movie by emphasizing on sexuality and budding chemistry of Cora and Frank (Janey 38). The first half of the movie builds up brilliantly the noir theme and is intense and mesmerizing. However the courtroom scene is a little bit weird and overdid, still the characters Ames and Cronyn do well. The second half of the movie becomes melodramatic and stifles away from the noir theme.
The plot of the movie focuses on Cora, the miserable wife who is trying for an escapade from her uninteresting life and her old husband. The first half of the movie captures the spirit of the novel almost exactly, and the building up of feelings between Cora and Frank is displayed well. Their growing obsession and their planning to murder Cora’s husband are captured clearly. Although the plot of the book and the movie has various similarities, nevertheless there are some differences also in the movie and book. The personalities of the lead characters in the novel do not match with the personalities portrayed in the movie.
Frank Chambers, the character in the movie was much more nice and smooth in comparison to the book’s Frank. Frank of the book was very rough and emotionally disoriented than character portrayed in the movie. Character of Nick in the movie is far more sociable and even-tempered than book’s Nick. The character “Core” in the film is portrayed not as emotional as Cora in the novel. In the movie, Lara Turner played the role of Cora, and she looks exquisite with white dress and blonde hair. The Cora of Cain’s novel is not so beautiful and does not have blonde hair. As expressed in the book by Frank, Cora had sulky look and her lips sticks out so much that he felt like mashing them in for her. The Cain’s novel describes the pain and passion of love in the prose whereas in the movie they are portrayed symbolically. Lara Turner as Cora, though has played her role perfectly still gives the feel of belonging to another world. Her glamorous looks and stylish appearance make it hard to believe that she is the wife of a roadside diner owner. She always looks so perfect and glamorous in the movie that the Cora’s ordinary character is lost and the audiences are not able to accept her entirely as the poor helpless desperate women. The character of Frank Chambers is played by John Garfield, who in contrary to Lara Turner fits in his character perfectly. The aimless drifter’s life is portrayed perfectly by Garfield and his boy next door look complements the character played by him.
Along with the difference in the traits of the characters in the book and movie, the early development of the plot in the movie and book are also different. The movie starts with a drunken wanderer Frank Chambers seeing a vacancy board at Twin Oaks and instructs to stop the car. Frank shares with the car driver who is the district attorney of town, the Kyle Sackett his reason for not settling to any place whereas the book starts with Frank Chambers reaching the Twin Oaks” (Cain 7). When Nick arrives, Frank is sitting on a table and Nick asks Frank for his order for a meal and Frank orders food. Frank, in the movie, tells Nick Smith, the easy-going owner of café that he has roaming feet and wishes to travel to see the world; however he accepts the job of repairman and mechanic Nick offers to him free accommodation, hamburger, and the salary.
“Not only is the beginning of the movie and book are different, but the climax scene is also different (Cain 96). In the near end of the movie, when Frank and Cora went in the ocean further, Cora tiredly struggles to stay afloat and she asks him to save her from drowning and promise to restore their love, or leave her to die. Since she wasn’t feeling good, Frank tows her on his shoulder. In the movie, Frank rescues his exhausted lover then they drives along the highway and near their home, Frank asks for a pleasant kiss. Because of the kiss while driving, he runs off the road and kills Cora in a car accident. In the book, Frank kept thinking that he had to get Cora to the hospital and tries to take her to hospital in car. However, the car accident proves to be fatal for Cora and she dies with her arm lying out of the crashed open door of car and Cora exits from the movie exactly the same way she entered, with the rolling of her lipstick on floor.
The ending of the movie has been a subject of acute criticism as it ends with Frank requesting the priest to pray for Frank’s union with Cora in afterlife. In the whole movie, Frank has displayed the characteristics of a drifter with shades of evil evident with his killing of Cora’s husband and not feeling remorse about it (Marling 43). Suddenly, the transformation in Frank’s character and his request to priest conveys mixed emotions and probably, the change in Frank’s behavior and belief is the resultant of the emotional grief he experienced after losing Cora and his sure death.
The book is sexy for the times in which it was written and the movie is also erotic. however if we compare book with movie, the movie is sexier than the book. Though the violence and sexuality in the movie is hyped more in comparison to the actual plot in the novel, the movie is an exact replica of novel in many scenes and has followed and adopted the book precisely (Marling 43). Moreover, the movie has retained the gripping and interesting plot of the novel which keeps audiences amused and engrossed in movie completely. It can be said that the movie director has done justice with the storyline of novel and has only attempted to make the steamy scenes between Cora and Frank steamier.
In my opinion, watching the movie is better than reading the book. The movie is easy to understand unlike the book “The book has explosive mixture of violence and eroticism (Mackellar 67) the events in book happen really fast and due to this, the book becomes a little hard to understand. I really enjoyed the movie because it’s an excellent thriller and I like the actors’ performances. The characters in the movie were well drawn than the characters in the book giving a classier appearance. The movie is an almost perfect replication of the book displaying the evil love and desire, and much ahead of its time in terms of portraying love and passion on the screen.
Before the making of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, the novel was filmed in Europe twice. French film version of this novel “Le Demier Tournant” was released in 1939 and in 1942, “Ossessione” was released which is the unauthorized adaptation of the novel.
Cain, James M. The Postman Always Rings Twice. Random House, 1943.
Hoopes, Roy. Cain: The Biography of James M. Cain. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982.
Library, Modern. "100 Best Novels." randomhouse.com, n.d.
Mackellar, Landis. The "Double Indemnity" Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray & New York's Crime of the Century. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0815608241, 2006.
Marling, William. Hard-Boiled Fiction. Case Western Reserve University , 2001.
Place, Janey. Women in Film Noir, London, BFI, 1978