Image from Best Buy
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a film starring Lana Turner and John Garfield and was released in 1946. We are once again exposed to the gritty underbelly of the city of Los Angeles. The two protagonists are dreamers desperately clinging to lives they think they deserve, and ultimately become embroiled in a lustful quest for the American dream. Financial ambition and greed become further motivation for many film noir characters after the Great Depression, and the World War which brought about financial insecurities and hardship for many. The dream the female protagonist Cora possessed was to work hard and own her own shop. This dream becomes less appealing as a large life insurance check becomes a much quicker possibility for a new start. This dream was not something women could often achieve during that time. Many were not allowed to run a business or own their own home. The ability to climb the economic ladder at a faster pace becomes too tempting for Frank and Cora, as their desire to “be somebody” grows against the bright backdrop of neon Hollywood.
Frank is a character often unable to complete a sentence or hold onto a single job for more than a week. Frank and Cora continue living on the outskirts of Los Angeles not far from the highway, while they dream of the bright lights of Los Angeles and escaping Cora’s marriage. The couple agree to flee the diner, and Cora’s marriage in a desperate attempt to be together once and for all. The two grab heavy leather suitcases and make their way toward Los Angeles on foot at the edge of the highway. As the mud and gravel begin to wear on the two characters’ crisp ironed clothing, their material possessions become destroyed, and the overpowering concern for financial stability stops the two mudstaineds figures. “I want to be somebody and if I walk out like this I’ll never be anybody,” cried Cora. The figure in white (red) and the figure in black stop before they ever reach the neon lights of Hollywood.
The bright neon light sign Cora’s husband Nick replaced at the diner is another example of his ambition to financially climb and reach his own American dream. In an effort to fix the sign himself, Frank agrees to buy more paint in town, but his efforts are no match for Nick’s new glamorous neon Hollywood ambition.
This hungry motivation that drives Nick to search for the American dream, and improve his restaurant on the outskirts of the bright city of Los Angeles are ultimately undermined by alcohol. Nick had a financial dream, just like the other characters, and is forced to live outside the city of light. This dream presents itself in the form of Cora, who is Christ-like, after Nick has faced the darkness of death and lies in his hospital bed looking up at her after her first attempt to kill him. Cora is in all white (red) holding Nick’s hand, as a Christ-like figure resurrecting Nick from the dead, while Nick’s head has been bandaged in a broken crown.
“Oh turn that off Cora, the electrical light company is making enough money,” exclaimed Nick while in his study counting the register. Cora turns to Nick and switches off the light leaving the frame in total darkness. Here we can see electricity and light in direct correlation to Nick’s finances. The fear of blind financial ambition and Cora’s relationship with Frank being uncovered and brought to light is in constant question between Nick and his wife Cora.
The one character who is capable of wielding and changing light for other characters in the film is the neighborhood cat. On the night Frank first attempted to kill Nick, he left a ladder by Nick’s window, but is then interrupted by the police. Frank plans to climb up the ladder into the window to help Cora in their final act of murder, but is stopped by the police. Frank is unable to climb toward the light of the upper window, because the treacherous ascent toward the light is a journey taken by the neighborhood cat. The electricity is then taken, in a single moment of blinding light, and the cat falls back down the ladder into total darkness. Leaving the entire restaurant in black, and the cat lifeless on the floor of the restaurant. The cop looks down at the floor, and then turns to Frank. Like all characters in the film, the quest for light and truth is an economic ladder many are risking their own lives to pursue. The cop inadvertently insults Frank for what could very well have been his own demise, but this does little to deter Frank from the lust and greed that continue to propel his aspirations forward with Cora.
While the three characters speed down the freeway, Nick’s drunken song is left echoing against the sharp jagged cliffs above the ocean. Cora is driving in the front, Nick is drinking an open bottle of wine in the passenger seat, and Frank is collecting the bottle and emptying its contents all over the back seat. The crime inside the vehicle leaves blood all over Frank’s hands. Nick’s sin, or alcohol addiction, become the weapon used against him as the glass bottle meets his skull inside the vehicle. In this moment each individual is charged with a different crime, and carries a different sin to hold in darkness. The driver and the passengers located in different seats of the vehicle are all charged as individuals by the court of law. Each marriage or romantic entanglement is now separated and each individual is tried for their own individual sin.
“I never saw a prettier cat,” remarked the cop in a morose petty sardonic tone.