White Heat (1949) Raoul Walsh
Ultimate Gangsters Collection Blu-ray (1:54)
James Cagney stars as Cody Jarrett, psychotic leader of a gang of robbers, but there’s much more to the role and the film. Jarrett is vicious, murdering people without thinking twice, even discarding his own people if they’re injured and unable to help themselves.
But perhaps Cody’s most disturbing quality is his unnatural fixation on his mother (Margaret Wycherly). And what about Cody’s wife Verna (Virginia Mayo)? Is she loyal to Cody while he’s on the run? And does undercover cop Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) stand any chance of getting close enough to Jarrett to bring him down?
Telling you more would deprive you of a wonderful viewing experience. White Heat is remembered mostly for its famous final scene, but the entire film is tremendous. Raoul Walsh moves the film along so quickly that you’ll be amazed the running time is nearly two hours.
Yet it’s Cagney we remember in one of his greatest performances ever, perhaps his very best. His Cody Jarrett makes other cinematic criminals look like toddlers. Nearly 70 years after its release, White Heat remains a hard-hitting gangster noir. See it – you won’t easily forget it and I guarantee you won’t forget Cagney.
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Photos: OCD Viewer, Toronto Film Society, The Film Spectrum