top of page

White Heat

White Heat (1949) starring James Cagney and Virginia Mayo is considered a classic. This gangster-prison noir film, as it's called, treats us to an unforgettable performance by Cagney, who plays Cody Jarrett, the sociopathic ringleader of a bunch of bad guys. In spite of his cunning and psychotic hard-heartedness, he's also a mama's boy, his Achilles heel in the end. Plenty happens: a mail train is robbed, a man's face and arms are burned to blisters by steam, Cody turns himself in and off to jail he goes, he escapes (after pulling a pistol out of a straitjacket) . . . there are hideouts and getaways, gun fights and car pursuits, plus the villains are surprisingly quite callous in committing their violent acts (for a 40s film). Even more surprising was seeing the police use phones in their cars. What? Is that possible? I had to stop and do some Googling to check if it was science fiction. It was not. Cops actually did have phones in their cars back then, and, as we see later in the film, they also had the technology to triangulate the location of vehicles. But the main reason to watch this one is Cagney, who could play a real mean fella really, really well.


bottom of page