8.2/10
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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:

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

This marked the first time James Cagney had worked for Warner Bros. since Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). "Movies should be entertaining, not blood baths," he said in the last days of his Warners contract. "I'm sick of carrying a gun and beating up women." He formed his own production company with his brother William, and for the next five years their pictures were distributed by United Artists. There were, however, only four films in those years, none of them very successful financially. So Cagney returned to Warner Brothers with a degree of autonomy (his production company remained intact) and made the kind of "blood bath" he had turned his back on seven years earlier. "It's what people want me to do," he grumbled. "Someday, though, I'd like to make just one picture kids could go see." See more »

Goofs

The police, planning to travel from Los Angeles to a state prison in Illinois, would probably have planned to fly to Chicago and not Springfield. The envelope sent to Vic / Hank only says "state penitentiary, Ill.," but they probably would have been in Joliet or Pontiac, both in NE IL. See more »

Quotes

Roy Parker: You wouldn't kill me in cold blood, would ya?
Cody Jarrett: No, I'll let ya warm up a little.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Selon Matthieu (2000) 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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