Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

In director Tay Garnett's thriller-noir based upon James M. Cain's novel:

  • the opening sequence of unemployed, hitchhiking drifter Frank Chambers (John Garfield) being dropped off in front of the rural Twin Oaks diner, owned by California roadside eatery proprietor Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), with the fateful sign: MAN WANTED (a come-on with many meanings!)
  • young wanderer Frank's brief conversation with the driver as he was about to set off (soon identified as Kyle Sackett (Leon Ames), the local district attorney prosecutor), revealing his wanderlust freedom and explaining why he kept "looking for new places, new people, new ideas," and couldn't settle down: "Well, I've never liked any job I've ever had. Maybe the next one is the one I've always been lookin' for....maybe my future starts right now"
  • after being hired as the diner's handyman and mechanic, the first appearance of smoldering, femme fatale Cora (Lana Turner); her lipstick case noisily rolled across the floor of the cafe toward him as he sat at the diner counter; the camera tracked back to her nude slim legs in the doorway; Frank looked at all of her - she was provocatively sexy and scantily clad in a white, two-piece playsuit (white shorts, white halter top, and white turban); he set his eyes on the whitish platinum-blonde woman, bent down and picked up her lipstick, and asked: "You dropped this?" She stood with her hand outstretched, waiting for him to bring it over to her. But he held onto her possession in the palm of his own hand and then leaned back on the counter; she strutted over and took the case out of his hand; she walked back to the doorway, stood sideways, and applied lipstick to her lips before shutting the door
The Dramatic Entrance of Cora
Frank to Cora: "You dropped this?"
  • after Cora's dramatic entrance into the cafe (sexily clad in white shorts, a halter and turban), she and hired worker Frank officially met and spoke for the first time; she began bossing and sizing him up while he made suggestive advances towards the untouchable yet glamorous woman; suddenly, Frank grabbed her and planted a kiss on her lips; she reacted with great poise - she pulled out her vanity mirror, cleaned up the smudged lipstick on her lips, and then reapplied the lipstick before leaving - without a word; there was terrific magnetism between the two
  • the incriminating note that Cora put into the cash register: "Nick - I'm going away with Frank - I love him. Cora" - when they planned to run away together; however, they changed their minds, and returned in time to retrieve the note
  • smitten from the very start, Frank proposed to the voluptuous Cora to leave with the promise of adventure to escape her life of boredom and defeat, and her marriage of convenience; the evil and conniving Cora convinced Frank to murder her husband Nick Smith, because she was engaged in a loveless marriage with him: (Cora: "There's, there's one thing we could do that would fix everything for us" Frank: "What? Pray for something to happen to Nick?" Cora: "Something like that") - unfaithful and soul-less Cora planted the idea of murder into Frank's head so that they could be together
  • the many illicit, moonlit beach swimming scenes between Cora and Frank
  • there was a second successful attempt to kill Nick with a staged accident on the road to Malibu Lake (by getting him drunk, knocking him unconscious, and pushing the car (with him inside) off the side of the road down a cliff), after the first attempt failed (a bathtub accident); as they both decided to climb down to the car ("We gotta mess ourselves up so we can prove we've been in the accident too"), Frank was the only one who climbed down, and he became trapped in the car as it plummeted further down
The Plot to Kill Nick (Second Attempt)
Frank Pushing Car Over Cliff (With Drunken, Unconscious Nick Inside)
Frank to Cora: "It's gonna be tough going now. Are you sure you can go through with it?"
  • the slow deterioration of the relationship between the two lovers, orchestrated when Cora's lawyer had her plead 'guilty' to both counts: murder (against Nick Smith) and the attempted murder (of Frank); both began to distrust and despise each other, resulting in Cora retaliating by testifying that Frank was implicated in Nick's murder: ("This will be a full and complete confession of how Frank Chambers and I deliberately planned and carried out the murder of my husband Nicholas Smith. Frank Chambers and I are equally guilty, although it was Frank who smashed Nick in the head before the car went over the cliff"); as a result of her lawyer's ploy, Cora plea-bargained, was acquitted and freed; they pledged to restore their love, although they remained tense toward each other
  • during a midnight swim, Cora swam out and threatened to drown herself; she asked for Frank's assistance to live - they both vowed to trust and love each other and restore their relationship
  • the finale's tragic accidental car crash scene; as the star-crossed lovers, now reconciled, drove along the highway and neared their home, Frank asked for a long-awaited kiss; she was painting her lips with lipstick; her last words before warning of an impending crash were: "When we get home, Frank, then there'll be kisses, kisses with dreams in them. Kisses that come from life, not death"; he responded: "I hope I don't wait"; she replied lovingly: "Darling," and then they kissed, but she soon cried out frantically: "Look out, Frank!" - (their final kiss was unfortunately, however, a fatal one); with startling imagery - the car door opened after the crash, Cora's lifeless arm fell off the seat, and her tube of lipstick slowly dropped to the floor of the car and onto the ground
The Fatal Car Crash
  • the subsequent trial when Frank was convicted of murdering Cora (although it was truly an accident); the headlines read: "GRAND JURY INDICTS CHAMBERS AS SLAYER: Killed Wife In Bogus Auto Accident, Charged to Face Murder Trial - Sensational Cora Smith Case Has Aftermath in Action against Husband"); the sentencing of Frank to death (execution in the gas chamber): "This man, Frank Chambers, and the dead woman, first murdered her husband to get his estate. And then Chambers murdered her so that he would have it all to himself
  • knowing that he was fully involved in plotting Nick's murder, Frank realized that it was futile to try to defend himself; it was argued that Frank was guilty all along - if not for Cora's murder, then for Nick's murder; Frank realized that if he was innocent of the car crash death of Cora, he could still be prosecuted for the death of Nick
  • in the concluding scene, Frank mused about Fate (portrayed as the figurative 'postman'), that had determined that both Frank and Cora would pay in the long run - thus explaining the title of the film: "You know, there's somethin' about this that's like, well, it's like you're expectin' a letter that you're just crazy to get. And you hang around the front door for fear you might not hear him ring. You never realize that he always rings twice...He rang twice for Cora. And now he's ringing twice for me, isn't he?...The truth is, you always hear him ring the second time, even if you're way out in the back yard"
  • Frank accepted his fate with one final prayer request of the priest Father McConnell (Tom Dillon) - he would pay with his life for a crime he didn't commit (Cora's death), making up for getting away with the murder of Nick: "Somehow or other, Cora paid for Nick's life with hers. And now I'm going to. Father, would you send up a prayer for me and Cora, and if you could find it in your heart, make it that we're together, wherever it is?"

The Twin Oaks Diner

Lipstick Case

Nude Slim Legs

Frank Chambers (John Garfield) - His First Glance at Cora

First Real Conversation Between Frank and Cora

Incriminating Note

Conniving to Kill Cora's Husband Nick

Furtive Kisses

Moonlight Swimming

Frank Charged With Cora's Murder After Car Crash

Frank's Final Words to the Prison Priest


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