White Heat (1949)

White Heat
Virginia Mayo and James Cagney

'White Heat' is a gangster film made in 1949, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien with Margaret Wycherly, and Steve Cochran. It is regarded as a classic crime movie and Cagney gives a mesmerising portrayal of the psychotic, mother-fixated killer, Cody Jarrett.

The movie received one Academy Award nomination, for Virginia Kellogg who was nominated for a 'Best Writing, Motion Picture Story' Award. The movie was voted the fourth best in the gangster film genre by the American Film Institute and, the quote; "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" was number 18 on the AFI's list of the greatest movie quotes. 'White Heat' was added to the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2003.

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"Do you Know what to do?" barks Cody Jarrett at his sidekick at the start of a daring train robbery; when the guy starts replying, Cody cuts him off: "Just do it, stop gabbing!" This headlong, action-only attitude sums up the drive of Raoul Walsh's films and few films are as taut, sustained, and economical in their telling as 'White Heat'.

Walsh is a relentlessly linear, fast-paced, forward-moving director whose work harkens back to silent cinema - as in that exciting car-meets-train opener. But he also explores the intriguing, complicating possibilities of 20th century psychology. On the job, Cody kills ruthlessly. Once holed up like a caged aniimal with his gang - as he will later be imprisoned - his psychopathology begins to emerge: indifference to others' suffering, fixation on a tough mom, and searing migraines thet send him berserk.

Cody, as immortalized in Cagney's powerhouse performance, embodies the ultimate contradiction that brings down movie gangsters: fantastic egotism and dreams of invincibility ("Look, Ma, top of the world!") undermined by all-too-human dependencies and vulnerabilities

Main Cast

James Cagney ... Arthur "Cody" Jarrett
Virginia Mayo ... Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien ... Vic Pardo
Margaret Wycherly ... Ma Jarrett
Steve Cochran ... "Big Ed" Somers
John Archer ... Philip Evans
Wally Cassell ... "Cotton" Valletti
Fred Clark ... Daniel "The Trader" Winston
Ian MacDonald ... "Bo" Creel
Paul Guilfoyle ... Roy Parker
G. Pat Collins ... "Reader" Curtin
Fred Coby ... "Happy" Taylor


Director ... Raoul Walsh
Producer ... Louis F Edelman
Production Company ... Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Screenplay ... Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
Story ... Virginia Kellogg
Photography ... Sid Hickox
Running time ... 114 minutes
Release Date ... 2 September 1949
Music .. Max Steiner

Academy Awards

No Wins:
1 Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Writing, Motion Picture Story ... Virginia Kellogg