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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

Complete credited cast:
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Wally Cassell ...
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Trader Winston
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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

Production Co:

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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

James Cagney took credit for having the idea for the scene in which Cody sits in his mother's lap. He said he told Raoul Walsh, "Let's see if we can get away with this," and Walsh agreed. But in his 1974 autobiography "Each Man in His Time" (which film writer Leonard Maltin has called "highly entertaining fiction with an occasional nod at the truth"), Walsh took credit for the idea and said the scene worked because Cagney and Margaret Wycherly made it so convincing. See more »

Goofs

In the opening scene the crooks are riding in a late-1940s Cadillac limo. Cadillacs of that vintage had standard rear fender skirts. As the car approaches us we see its left side and the left fender skirt is in place. Then the car goes around a bend and we see the right side. There is no fender skirt on the right rear fender. But a few seconds later the car arrives at the railroad track and stops right on the track. We're looking at the right side of the car and the fender skirt is in place as it should be. The two scenes may have been shot on two different days. Very trivial, of course, except for old car buffs. See more »

Quotes

Cody Jarrett: You're just lonesome. Lonesome, like me.
Hank Fallon alias Vic Pardo: You? What about...
Cody Jarrett: You mean Verna?
[shakes his head no]
Cody Jarrett: All I ever had was Ma.
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Connections

Referenced in Close-Up (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
a boy's best friend is his mother
15 August 2001 | by (brighton, ma) – See all my reviews

James Cagney lights up the screen in all respects in this violent and hard-driving film. There's nary a dull moment with Jimmy on hand, whether having his mother ease his migraine tantrums by rubbing his head or shooting a fellow gang member through the trunk of his car in order to give him a little air. Raoul Walsh vigorously directs this movie with remarkable gusto given that he was over sixty at the time and at at this point in his career had nothing to prove.

Cagney's character of Cody Jarrett is shown to be a madman at the start of the film. There's no need for his confederates to engage in a little is-he-or-isn't-he chitchat regarding his sanity a la The Caine Mutiny. They know he's mad. Even his mother knows he's mad. No matter. Cody continues on his crime spree, and his gang stays loyal to him, if only for the consequences of leaving him being to frightening to contemplate. He has a girl, who two-times him with another gang member. A federal agent who infiltrates the gang and becomes a surrogate mother by easing his headaches in the same manner, also betrays him, though it's his job to do so. Only Ma Jarrett, it seems, could be trusted.

One of the many charms of this film is its absolute refusal to make a statement, which wasn't Raoul Walsh's bag anyway; and screenwriters Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, though they delve into Freud a bit, don't get too heavy over Cagney's psychopathology. They just accept it, show us its various sides, and leave it at that. This movie is a far cry from other films made around the same time, was highly popular when first released, and remains so to this day. It is not quite film noir, being too bright and rational. Nor is it a study in perverse psychology, despite its main character. For all the location filming it is no semi-documentary in the manner of House On 92nd Street. It is basically a lively action picture whose makers, taking a cue from Hiroshima bomb, decided to end their movie with a bang, making their show a fine example of good, clean apocalyptic fun.


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