White Heat (1949)

White Heat (1949), directed by Raoul Walsh.

First review

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) is tough. His gang is tough. Even his mother is tough. The cops are pretty serious, too. They say Cody is crazy, but I think he just has headaches and a quirky sense of humor.

It's an exciting, good looking classic, but the high body count and casual killing make it seem more comic book than realistic.

I'm always watching for Edmond O'Brien; here he is the undercover policeman who seems to spend most of his life in prison.

This is one of the films reused in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).

Max Steiner score.

Second review

This time I noted the police detective's insight into Cody Jarrett, that as a child he faked headaches to get his mother's attention. As an adult he is no longer faking and only Ma can soothe him. In prison the undercover policeman becomes his surrogate mother; how weird is that?

When Cody finally discovers he has been betrayed he laughs and laughs, relishing his mania. He has only a few minutes left by then.


Slashing score by Max Steiner. Photographed by Sydney Hickox, who also did Colorado Territory (1949).

Available on Blu-ray with a fact-filled commentary track.