UPDATE: Reports of Jack Nicholson’s retirement questioned.
Jack Nicholson has announced he’s retiring at the age of 76, thus bringing to an end a terrific career that spanned my lifetime and gave us a number of roles and lines that have made an indelible mark on American Culture.
Thus, to celebrate the retirement of ‘Uncle Jack,’ here’s the first of a number of posts on performances by Jack Nicholson. It’s what I consider to be the sexiest scene in movie history in The Postman Always Rings Twice remake, from 1981.
The movie stars Jack Nicholson and a then-new model-turned-actress Jessica Lange, who’s only previous role was in the 1976 version of King Kong. Called a “bimbo,” Ms. Lange was eager to make her mark in something juicier.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the original book and 1934 movie, was about two people: Frank Chambers, played by Jack Nicholson, and Cora Papadakis, played by Jessica Lange. Chambers was a drifter who had taken up a job at the diner Cora ran with her older Greek husband. Even though Cora’s married, Frank has an attraction to her Toward the start of the movie, as Cora closes the dinner.
Frank makes a move on Cora that starts out to look like it’s unpleasant (Not sure how it would go down today), but then Cora eggs him on and they wind up having sex on a cutting board table. The funny thing about the scene is that audiences thought the pair was having sex, and I for one always wanted to jump into the screen, push Nicholson out of the way and out of the diner, and finish the job the right way. By 21st Century standards, he didn’t know what he was doing.
It was later revealed that not only was the sex simulated, according to the movie’s director Bob Rafelson, Nicholson couldn’t get it up. Seriously. Nicholson couldn’t get it up for sex scenes with Jessica Lange! Nicholson, who wanted to make the scene the “nastiest” he’s ever done to that point in time, had the idea of wearing a prosthetic to make it look like he had a real “railer,” but when Jack arrived on the set to do the shoot, no one had what he wanted, so he was irritated. Rafelson told Jack to “go upstairs and see what you can do” about making himself into the “railer,” if you get what I mean, but that didn’t work, either. So, it’s a testament to their acting, and Rafelson’s directing that the scene holds up. But even today, it’s perhaps the best example of a primal, lustful sex scene in the movies.
After that, I though Jack Nicholson was a scumbag for some years, which is what happens when an actor plays a role so well. But it wasn’t his best role by far.