For film noir at its steamy best, See Garfield's 1946 `Postman'

Best Bet

January 17, 2002|By Michael Sragow

John Garfield could turn the act of cadging a smoke and savoring it into a romantic invitation. He epitomized the virile working-class antihero of the 1930s and '40s - an urban Joe with a well-worn chip on his shoulder, alternately resisting and giving into temptation and sometimes staging a scam or two himself.

He was at his best in the 1946 movie version of Baltimorean James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. As a cheerful hitchhiker who ambles into a Southern California roadside luncheonette and immediately falls in love with the proprietor's voluptuous wife (Lana Turner), Garfield prefigures Marlon Brando and James Dean.

The movie itself will show fans of the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There how California film noir should be done. It's energetic and sexy - slick in a good way. And Garfield is phenomenal. Critic and film historian Steve Vineberg has written, "When he tells Lana Turner he loves her so much that nothing else matters, his taut frame expresses a desperate eroticism."

In The Postman Always Rings Twice, Vineberg continues, "Garfield really began to listen to the other actors in a scene in that intense, almost sensual manner that came to mark Method actors through the next generation."

The picture plays Saturday at noon at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. Call 410-727-FILM.

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