White Heat 1949

White Heat

Critics 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.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 34

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,159

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Movie Info

Gang leader Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) lives for his mother, planning heists between horrible headaches. During a train robbery that goes wrong, Cody shoots an investigator. Realizing Cody will never be stopped if he knows he's being pursued, authorities plant undercover agent Hank (Edmond O'Brien) in Cody's cell. When his mother dies, a distraught Cody breaks out of jail, bringing Hank along to join his gang. With Hank in communication with the police, Cody plans a payroll heist.

Cast & Crew

James Cagney
Arthur "Cody" Jarrett
Virginia Mayo
Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien
Vic Pardo, Hank Fallon
Steve Cochran
Big Ed Somers
John Archer
Philip Evans
Wally Cassell
Giovanni "Cotton" Valletti
Fred Clark
Daniel Winston
Ford Rainey
Zuckie Hommell (uncredited)
Pat Collins
Michael "Reader" Curtin (uncredited)
Ivan Goff
Writer
Max Steiner
Original Music
Sidney Hickox
Cinematographer
Owen Marks
Film Editor
Edward Carrere
Art Direction
Fred M. MacLean
Set Decoration
Leah Rhodes
Costume Designer
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Critic Reviews for White Heat

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for White Heat

  • Feb 08, 2019
    A masterclass in pacing. Not a second of this movie is wasted, each scene only adds intriguing complications to the plot. Cagney is exactly the kind of terrifying energy the movie needed.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2017
    This gangster film has it all - well-planned heists, cold-blooded murders, fast cars, double-crosses, snappy dialog, sophisticated criminals, and just as sophisticated cops. It's very smart, and Director Raoul Walsh keeps us on our toes without wasting a single moment in telling this story. Most of all, it has James Cagney, who is just fantastic. The film is both dark both in how it's shot, a classic film noir, and in its tone, as Cagney's character is sociopathic, wracked by migraines, and possibly insane. He is supported by a great cast, including Margaret Wycherly in the memorable role as his mother, whose toughness and depravity is gradually revealed. Edmond O'Brien is also strong in the role of the undercover G-man. One theme in the film is how easily (and violently) criminals will betray one another. Another is how advanced forensic and crime-fighting technology was in 1949, which is both impressive and may make you smile. The two of those put together serve as a strong anti-crime message, likely influenced by the production code, and yet, the film is gritty and pushes boundaries, so that it doesn't feel like a morality tale. Character motivations feel authentic. There are several iconic moments, the ending of course, but also Cagney returning and surprising his wife (Virginia Mayo) in the garage, and later staring at a rival (Steve Cochran) through the crack of a door. He is absolutely chilling when angry, and one can't help but be impressed by the great range he showed over his career. If you're in the mood for action and a dark crime film, 'White Heat' is very satisfying.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2015
    Like getting punched in the face - in a good way.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 28, 2011
    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).
    Devon B Super Reviewer

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