The on-set sexual tension between John Garfield and Lana Turner was clear to all involved with the film. Their first day together, he called out to her, "Hey, Lana, how's about a little quickie?" to which she replied "You bastard!"
This is the third version of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" novel. The first was French, Le dernier tournant (1939) whilst the second was Italian, Ossessione (1943). The fourth was The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). As such, this 1946 film was the first English language version but was the third version in black-and-white as both earlier versions were not in colour.
John Garfield and Lana Turner had a brief affair, according to Garfield's friend, Warner Bros. director Vincent Sherman. He said Turner was the only co-star with whom Garfield ever became romantically involved. There had been sparks between the two since the first day of shooting, and the delays had sparked a close friendship. Finally, they shared a moonlit tryst on the beach but that was their only night together. The two realized that whatever was happening on-screen, off-screen they had no sexual chemistry together. They remained friends nonetheless.
James M. Cain was so impressed with Lana Turner's performance he presented her with a leather-bound copy of the book inscribed, "For my dear Lana, thank you for giving a performance that was even finer than I expected."
As originally written in the novel, Madge was a lion tamer. Tay Garnett even filmed the scene in which she introduces Frank to her cats. During shooting, a tiger sprayed the two stars, prompting John Garfield to jokingly ask for stunt pay.
Various treatments and scripts were submitted by M-G-M to the PCA between 1940 and 1945, and in May 1945, the PCA approved a revised temporary script. In an April 1946 New York Times article, James M. Cain notes that while some "details about sex were omitted," nothing else was changed in the story's adaptation to the screen to win the approval of the PCA.
The strain of waiting for the fog to lift caused Tay Garnett, who had suffered from drinking problems in the past, to fall off the wagon. Garnett holed himself up in his hotel room, where nobody could get him to stop drinking. Concerned about rumours that he was going to be replaced, John Garfield and Lana Turner decided to visit him on their own. Garfield could get nowhere with him, but Turner managed to convince him to go back to Los Angeles for treatment. When he returned a week later, the fog lifted, and they all went back to work.
The Breen Office made several impassioned pleas to MGM to drop their planned film, warning of the dangers of filming a novel that it called "unwholesome and thoroughly objectionable" in its general theme. Breen later elaborated on his objections, stating that many of the story's elements, including "numerous sexual irregularities," the explicit treatment of criminal acts and the "emphasis upon the dishonesty of the lawyers and representatives of the insurance companies," would prevent the film from gaining the PCA's approval. By April 1934, M-G-M agreed to abandon the property, and it was shelved for six years.
Tay Garnett wanted to shoot in as many actual locations as possible for the movie, a rarity for MGM at the time. For the seaside love scenes, he took the cast and crew to Laguna Beach, where a fog made shooting impossible for days. After a few days, they moved to San Clemente in search of clearer skies, only to have fog roll in there as well. Then word got to them that the fog had lifted at Laguna Beach. By the time they got back there, however, it had returned.
In early February 1934, before the novel was published, a synopsis of his story was submitted to the PCA by RKO executive Merian C. Cooper. After reviewing the synopsis, the PCA persuaded RKO to abandon its plans to film Cain's story, calling it "definitely unsuitable for motion picture production."
The sneak preview was a disaster, particularly the scenes in which Madge shows Frank her collection of trained cats. James M. Cain was so embarrassed he crawled out of the screening to avoid producer Carey Wilson.
This film received its initial telecast in Los Angeles Friday 1 November 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Philadelphia Thursday 9 January 1958 on WFIL (Channel 6), by New York City 11 April 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2), and by San Francisco 2 May 1959 on KGO (Channel 7).
This is one of two film versions of Cain's novel that is now owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment, which acquired the film through its 1996 merger with Turner Entertainment. WB also owns the 1981 Lorimar version, which WB acquired in its 1989 purchase of Lorimar.