in about 100 words or less
US 114m, B&W
Director: Raoul Walsh; Cast: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Margaret Wycherly, Steve Cochran
As gangster Arthur “Cody” Jarrett, James Cagney is perhaps at his best in the film noir classic – White Heat. Unlike the numerous Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s and 40s, White Heat distinguishes itself from the others through the intensity of the characters and their crude and malicious conduct toward one another. Cagney is a standout as a middle-aged deranged killer who happily shoots holes into the trunk of a car to give the occupant “some air” while he continues to rely on his mother for compassion and guidance. Likewise, Virginia Mayo is near perfect as the film’s femme fatale who is always ready to betray her man if the right opportunity comes along. The film concludes most spectacularly with a clearly insane Cody declaring to his mother that he “Made it Ma, top of the world!” before being engulfed in flames during his last stand atop a storage tank in a chemical plant (Klaus Ming October 2010).
Absolutely brilliant movie, and I agree that it was pretty brutal for it’s time. The scene where he’s in prison and finds out about his mother is also classic.
Apparently the reaction from the extras playing the inmates during that scene was real – as there was no rehearsal of that prison scene.