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White Heat (1949)

Approved | | Action, Crime, Drama | 3 September 1949 (USA)
A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn.

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(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

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Storyline

Cody Jarrett is the sadistic leader of a ruthless gang of thieves. Afflicted by terrible headaches and fiercely devoted to his 'Ma,' Cody is a volatile, violent, and eccentric leader. Cody's top henchman wants to lead the gang and attempts to have an 'accident' happen to Cody, while he is running the gang from in jail. But Cody is saved by an undercover cop, who thereby befriends him and infiltrates the gang. Finally, the stage is set for Cody's ultimate betrayal and downfall, during a big heist at a chemical plant. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

James Cagney Is Red Hot In "White Heat"! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

3 September 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alma negra  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In his autobiography Cagney by Cagney (1985), the actor said he found the script "very formula...the old knock-down-drag-'em-out again, without a touch of imagination or originality." Finding Cody Jarrett to be "just another murderous thug," Cagney said he suggested to the writers to pattern the character of Jarrett and his mother after the legendary outlaws Ma Barker and her boys and to make Cody a psychotic. It has also been said that Cagney improvised some of his dialogue and decided to play Jarrett as a man plagued by blinding migraines (that only his mother could soothe). See more »

Goofs

When Cody, Velma and Ma duck into the drive-in theatre to evade the police, the film showing is TASK FORCE which Ma Jarrett also states was the movie playing when questioned by the police the next day. However, a close look at the marquee on the drive-in theatre reveals that the film playing is SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS. See more »

Quotes

Cody Jarrett: "Come out with your hands up," the man says. How do you like that Ma? Here's my answer. You dirty -
[fires his shotgun]
Cody Jarrett:
  • That was Cody Jarrett talkin'!

See more »

Connections

Referenced in Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) See more »

Soundtracks

Five O'Clock Whistle
(1940) (uncredited)
Music by Josef Myrow, Kim Gannon & Gene Irwin
Played on a radio
See more »

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User Reviews

Cagney's last great gangster film was his best...
15 June 2002 | by See all my reviews

WHITE HEAT is the ultimate gangster melodrama with the great James Cagney at the peak of his powers. No one else in the cast is a slouch either--Virginia Mayo convinces me that Bette Davis was right when she suggested Mayo should have played Rosa Moline in BEYOND THE FOREST.

Edmond O'Brien as a doggedly determined cop pretending to be a prisoner to get close to Cagney, is excellent, as he always is in these kind of roles. Steve Cochran's dirty lowdown heel is a standout as the darkly handsome actor makes the most of every line, especially in his scenes opposite Virginia Mayo.

Director Raoul Walsh keeps the film spinning along at a fast clip, never once letting the rather uncomplicated plot lose any of its tension as he underscores the pathology of Cody Jarrett's character, a man obsessed by his conniving mother (Margaret Wycherly). Cagney's prison breakup scene is masterfully handled by the actor and staged for maximum effect. A rousing score by Max Steiner underlines all of the suspenseful action and there's an electrifying climax with Cagney's famous "Top of the world, ma!" before he meets his end.

James Cagney has never had a better gangster role and he's given brilliant support by an outstanding cast. By all means, worth viewing as one of the great Warner crime melodramas of the late '40s.


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