A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist.


Raoul Walsh


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





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


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


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


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Location work was done in the San Fernando Valley (CA) areas of Van Nuys and Chatsworth (in a railroad tunnel). The explosive finale was shot at an oil refinery in Torrance, CA. See more »


The character of "The Reader" is called "Herbert" by Cody in a scene in their cell and by his lawyer during a conversation in the visitors room. Yet when Evans is listening to the police radio broadcast giving the names of the convicts who escaped with Jarrett in the prison break, The Reader's name is given as "Michael Curtin". See more »


Verna Jarrett: What about me? What do I do for the next two years?
Ma Jarrett: Same as you did before he married you.
Cody Jarrett: You better not, baby. I'll be back.
Verna Jarrett: I'll be waitin' for you honey. You can trust me.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also Available in a Colorized Version. See more »


Referenced in Lost Signal (2006) See more »


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

User Reviews

Love James Cagney movies? Don't miss this one.
13 May 2019 | by ksdilauriSee all my reviews

If you're into Old Hollywood, and haven't gotten around to seeing "White Heat", remedy that right away! Nobody does 'gangster' like Cagney, and the screenplay by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts is one of their very best---a classic Warner Brothers crime melodrama, with a mother complex thrown in for its protagonist. When pictures like this are done well, they hold up in spite of the change in standards over time. "White Heat" is tough, even though its violence isn't explicitly shown and there isn't a cuss word in the whole thing. (Can you imagine? Today, even TV talk-show hosts drop f-bombs like gum wrappers. That's progress......) The "White Heat" DVD is available, including 2 commentaries by film historians Leonard Maltin and Drew Casper, in the fun "Warner Brothers Night at the Movies" package. It's the way it used to be when people went to a movie in the Golden Era---with coming attractions, 1949 newsreel, vintage Bugs Bunny cartoon, a comedy short, and the feature picture---with Cagney in his most explosive role. A must see for film buffs.

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Release Date:

3 September 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

White Heat See more »


Box Office


$1,300,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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