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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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Margaret Wycherly ...
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John Archer ...
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

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Searing the screen like the death-blast of a sub-machine gun ! ! ! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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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

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

If the surprise expressed by James Cagney's fellow inmates during "the telephone game" scene in the prison dining room appears real, it's because it is. Director Raoul Walsh didn't tell the rest of the cast what was about to happen, so Cagney's outburst caught them by surprise. In fact, Walsh himself didn't know what Cagney had planned; the scene as written wasn't working, and Cagney had an idea. He told Walsh to put the two biggest extras playing cons in the mess-hall next to him on the bench (he used their shoulders to boost himself onto the table) and to keep the cameras rolling no matter what. 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

Cody Jarrett: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
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Connections

Referenced in The Wild (2006) 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

Cagney's last great gangster film was his best...
15 June 2002 | by (U.S.A.) – 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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