Frank Chambers (John Garfield) is a drifter who stops at a rural diner for a meal, and ends up working there. The diner is operated by a beautiful young woman, Cora Smith (Lana Turner), and her much older husband, Nick (Cecil Kellaway).
Frank and Cora start to have an affair soon after they meet. Cora is tired of her situation, married to a man she does not love, and working at a diner that she wishes to own. She and Frank scheme to murder Nick in order to start a new life together without her losing the diner. Their first attempt at the murder is a failure, but they eventually succeed.
The local prosecutor, Kyle Sackett (Leon Ames), suspects what has occurred, but doesn't have enough evidence to prove it. As a tactic intended to get Cora and Frank to turn on one another, he tries only Cora for the crime. Although they do turn against each other, a clever ploy from Cora's lawyer prevents Cora's full confession from coming into the hands of the prosecutor. With the tactic having failed to generate any new evidence for the prosecution, Cora benefits from a plea bargain in which she pleads guilty to manslaughter and receives probation. Frank and Cora eventually patch together their tumultuous relationship, and now plan for a future together. But as they seem to be prepared finally to live "happily ever after", Cora dies in a car accident, while Frank is driving. Although it was truly an accident, the circumstances seem suspicious enough that Frank is accused of having staged the crash. He is convicted of murdering Cora and is sentenced to death.
When informed that his last chance at a reprieve from his death sentence has been denied, and thus his execution is now at hand, Frank is at first incredulous that he will be put to death for a crime of which he is innocent. But when informed that authorities have recently discovered irrefutable evidence of his guilt in the murder of Nick, Frank decides that his impending death is actually his overdue punishment for that crime, despite his official conviction being for the murder of Cora.
Frank contemplates that when a person is expecting to receive a letter, it is of no concern if at first he does not hear the postman ring the doorbell, because the postman will always ring a second time, and that second ring will invariably be heard. After they escaped legal punishment for Nick's murder, but nonetheless with Cora now dead and Frank on his way to the death chamber, he notes that the postman has indeed rung a second time for each of them.
2 min 30 sec
November 08, 2012
James M. Cain
May 2, 1946
No Music Available