Saturday, April 23, 2011

Film Pairing — Cain Was More Than Able

The postman rang more than twice. There were French, Hungarian and Italian versions of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. There was an opera and a Broadway play (starring Val Kilmer). But most Americans are familiar with two Hollywood movies based on the story. One was the highly praised Lana Turner and John Garfield film in 1946 and the less than critically acclaimed Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lang remake in 1981, with a screenplay by David Mamet. Personally, I think the remake might have improved with age.

Maybe the real story here is Cain, the writer. Out of the 22 novels he wrote, there were 17 movies. In addition to the two Postman movies, there were also two versions of Mildred Pierce — the Joan Crawford classic and the current, lauded Kate Winslet HBO production. Of his many fine novels another dark, classic movie was born — Double Indemnity with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Director Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler co-wrote the screenplay. The characters went wrong; but the movie didn’t.

In this case, stick to the originals. If you can do three films in black and white in one crowded evening, go for the originals of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity. If not, pick two. Of course, you could always read the books.

In terms of libation, whatever you fix should have gin in it. A high ball maybe. How about a Gin Rickey?

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