Noir Spotlight: The Postman Always Rings Twice

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MGM purchased the rights to The Postman Always Rings Twice approximately twelve years before it got made.

“MGM had held an option on the story for years, but fear of the censors had kept it off the screen,” said Lana Turner. “But now they finally had a screenplay that retained the flavor of the book and also satisfied the Production Code.”

When the story was remade, Turner was disappointed to hear about the content. “I’d had to project a rather intense sexual presence, but always with my clothes on.”

1. Another actor had the part first.

Joel McCrea and Gregory Peck were offered the role, but turned it down. John Garfield accepted the part, but he could have missed out on it. He was offered a part in The Harvey Girls as Judy Garland’s love interest (read more about that film here). He passed on that musical and the role went to John Hodiak.

2. Fog was the enemy.

Turner said, “The director, Tay Garnett, wanted to film in as many natural locations as possible.” However, he couldn’t have anticipated a fog that wouldn’t let up. Turner said, “Each day we’d go down to the beach and sit there in the dense mist, waiting and hoping.” The bad weather had a bad effect on the director who stressed about keeping the film under-budget and on schedule. At one point, the studio even considered replacing him.

3. Turner liked the part.

She said it was one of her favorites and that John Garfield was her favorite leading man. She described him as shy, vibrant, and intelligent. “I respected John as an actor, and we had developed a certain steamy chemistry as we performed together. [He had] a reputation as a demon lover.” She also liked working with her on-screen husband. “I adored Cecil Kellaway, who played Nick, the elderly husband –so much so that I hated having to help kill him on camera.”

4. A tiger ruined a take.

When John Garfield and Audrey Totter filmed at the Los Angeles Zoo, a tiger stole the scene. The big cat began to relieve himself in the direction of the actors. Garfield called, “Stunt check over here!” The scene was relocated, and the tiger lost its chance to be part of the iconic film noir.