White Heat


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.



Total Count: 30


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,117
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White Heat Photos

Movie Info

This gangster movie centers on a psychotic, mother-obsessed thug.

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James Cagney
as Arthur Cody Jarrett
Virginia Mayo
as Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien
as Hank Fallon/Vic Pardo
Steve Cochran
as Big Ed Somers
John Archer
as Phillip Evans
Wally Cassell
as Giovanni Cotton Valetti
Wally Cassel
as Giovanni Cotton Valetti
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
Ray Montgomery
as Ernie Trent
Hank Fallon
as Edmund O'Brien
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 Stoolie
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
John Pickard
as Government Agent
Perry Ivins
as Simpson, the Prison Doctor
Nolan Leary
as Gas Station Owner
Joel Allen
as Operative
Grandon Rhodes
as Psychiatrist
John McGuire
as Psychiatrist
Harry Lauter
as Radio Patrolman, Car A
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
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Critic Reviews for White Heat

All Critics (30) | 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.

    Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Cagney has an excellent supporting cast.

    Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    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.

    Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…
  • Despite chronology (deranged by the censor's influence on the studios), this is really the fitting climax of the '30s gangster movie.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    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.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Before White Heat, no gangster film had featured anybody like Cody Jarrett.

    Nov 29, 2018 | Full Review…

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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