8.2/10
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163 user 88 critic

White Heat (1949)

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.

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Writers:

Ivan Goff (screen play), Ben Roberts (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:
James Cagney ... Cody Jarrett
Virginia Mayo ... Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien ... Hank Fallon aka Vic Pardo
Margaret Wycherly ... Ma Jarrett
Steve Cochran ... Big Ed Somers
John Archer ... Philip Evans
Wally Cassell ... Cotton Valletti
Fred Clark ... The Trader aka 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:

Pick up the pieces folks, Jimmy's in action again! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 September 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alma negra See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Edmond O'Brien was rather in awe of James Cagney. He found out how generous an actor and gentle a person Cagney could be. In a close-up the two were playing together, O'Brien felt Cagney standing with increasing pressure on the top of O'Brien's right foot, forcing the younger actor to move in that direction. O'Brien realized if he had not done so, he would have been out of frame and Cagney would have had the scene to himself. When the cameras were rolling, Cagney would look like "an angry tiger," but as soon as Raoul Walsh yelled cut, the star would quietly go up to O'Brien with a poem he had written and ask him in a whisper, "Would you mind telling me what you think of this?" When it came time to return to work, Cagney would plead, "Please, don't tell anyone about it." 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

Verna Jarrett: All right, throw your life away. Stay here and shoot it out! Me? I'm going. I wanna live.
Big Ed Somers: Cody might have some ideas about that.
Verna Jarrett: I'll go someplace he'll never find me.
Big Ed Somers: Your world ain't big enough, Sugar. Not when he finds out what you did to his Ma.
Verna Jarrett: You'd tell him?
Big Ed Somers: If you run out on me. Why not?
Verna Jarrett: But I only did it for you, Ed. She had you covered.
Big Ed Somers: Cody still ain't gonna like to hear that she got it in the back. Feel more like stayin' now?
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

 
a boy's best friend is his mother
15 August 2001 | by telegonusSee 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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