White Heat (1949) - Rotten Tomatoes

White Heat (1949)



Critic Consensus: Raoul Walsh's crime drama goes further into the psychology of a gangster than most fear to tread and James Cagney's portrayal of the tragic anti-hero is constantly volatile.

Movie Info

This gangster movie centers on a psychotic, mother-obsessed thug.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Ben Roberts, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Virginia Kellogg
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 25, 2005


James Cagney
as Arthur Cody Jarrett
Virginia Mayo
as Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien
as Hank Fallon/Vic Pard...
Steve Cochran
as Big Ed Somers
John Archer
as Phillip Evans
Wally Cassell
as Giovanni Cotton Vale...
Wally Cassel
as Giovanni Cotton Vale...
Fred Clark
as Daniel Winston
Ford Rainey
as Zuckie Hommell
Fred Coby
as Happy Taylor
G. Pat Collins
as Herbert, the Reader
Mickey Knox
as Het Kohler
Paul Guilfoyle
as Roy Parker
Robert Osterloh
as Tommy Ryley
Ian MacDonald
as Bo Creel
Hank Fallon
as Edmund O'Brien
Ray Montgomery
as Ernie Trent
Jim Toney
as Brakeman
Leo Cleary
as Fireman
Terry O'Sullivan
as Radio Announcer
Marshall Bradford
as Chief of Police
Milton Parsons
as Willie Rolf, the Sto...
Eddie Phillips
as Government Agent
Robert Foulk
as Guard at Plant
Jim Thorpe
as Convict
Eddie Foster
as Nat Lefeld
Lee Phelps
as Tower Guard
Perry Ivins
as Simpson, the Prison ...
John Pickard
as Government Agent
Joel Allen
as Operative
Nolan Leary
as Gas Station Owner
Grandon Rhodes
as Psychiatrist
John McGuire
as Psychiatrist
Harry Lauter
as Radio Patrolman, Car...
Bob Fowke
as Guard
Sid Melton
as Russell Hughes
Fern Eggen
as Margaret Baxter
Garrett Craig
as Ted Clark
Buddy Gorman
as Popcorn Vendor
George Taylor
as Police Surgeon
Stanton Herzog
as Accountant
Joey Ray
as Agent
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for White Heat

Critic Reviews for White Heat

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (5)

Brilliantly directed by Raoul Walsh, an old master of cinema hoodlumism, it returns a more subtle James Cagney to the kind of thug role that made him famous.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Cagney has an excellent supporting cast.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
Top Critic

Raoul Walsh's heroes had a knack for going too far, but none went further than James Cagney in this roaring 1949 gangster piece.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Despite chronology (deranged by the censor's influence on the studios), this is really the fitting climax of the '30s gangster movie.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The simple fact is that Mr. Cagney has made his return to a gangster role in one of the most explosive pictures that he or anyone has ever played.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Magnificent examination of the criminal mind and Cagney's finest moment.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for White Heat


Bridging the gap between the gangster era and film noir is this doozy of a crime epic.

Cody Jarrett is a real piece of work, he's a determined criminal with a strong desire to be 'on top of the world'. He's neglectful of his sultry wife, feverishly devoted to his doting mother, and actually finds glee when it comes to dishing out acts of violence, even upon his own gang of thugs. He also suffers from crippling migraines, which really seem to have an effect of his already fractured psyche.

After inadvertently leaving clues behind following a railroad heist, Jarrett becomes a target of the feds. In order to cover his tracks, he willingly goes to prison on a trumped up charge. While there, he befriends a mole placed by the G-Men to infiltrate his gang. Jarrett and the mole escape from jail, and once out, they regroup the gang in order to pull off another masterful caper, unaware of the plans of the feds.

This is a really stunning film, and definitely high on the list of best ofs in the genre. Raoul Walsh provides some strong, briskly paced direction, there's great camera work, and a fair amount of character study, depth, and food for thought. The action set pieces, especially the finale are superb, and through it all we get some terrific performances, dominated by the always impressive Cagney.

If you're a fan of gangster films, or just love a great crime yarn in general, then this is a must-see.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Someone on IMDB called "White Heat" the bridge "between film noir and WB's classic gangster flicks", and I think it's a pretty apt description. It's the story of Cody Jarrett, psychotic gangster feared by everyone, and yet constantly looking over his shoulder as conspirators lie in wait at every turn (whether it be his right hand man, Big Ed, or the undercover cop, Vic Pardo). Cody the crackpot, with his phantom headaches and his obsessive fixation on his mother, you get the sense of impending doom lingering about his head. So what makes this film so noir-ish? Well, there's a certain amount of lurid fascination we the audience are made to feel with Cody's world, be it with his sleezy, back-stabbing wife or his disturbingly ruthless mother, it's all gritty and seedy. Characters like Pardo or "The Trader" (Cody's "manager") feel like they're ahead of their time in some ways, and we can still see echoes of them in modern day crime films. But it's James Cagney's Cody that steals the show. He's intense, intelligent, but maybe a little too trusting of those around him. His character is kind of pitiful in that he never sees betrayal coming until it's too late. It's a great performance and a great, if quirky crime noir that's right up there with The Big Sleep and The Big Heat (and other "big" movies, for that matter- well, except for Tom Hanks' "Big", obviously).

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

My favourite gangster movie, Cagney is brilliant as the crazy mama's boy gang leader. The ending is classic. I love it.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

White Heat Quotes

Arthur Cody Jarrett: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
– Submitted by Dutch E (3 years ago)
Arthur Cody Jarrett: A copper! A copper! And I treated him like a kid brother... and I was going to go 50-50 with a copper!
– Submitted by Stan D (3 years ago)
Arthur Cody Jarrett: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
– Submitted by Chris P (5 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss White Heat on our Movie forum!