Author Topic: White Heat (1949)  (Read 1335 times)

Offline Antares

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White Heat (1949)
« on: March 15, 2010, 04:06:36 AM »
White Heat

Year: 1949
Film Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre: Drama, Crime
Length: 113 Min.

Raoul Walsh (1887)

Ivan Goff (1910)...Screenplay
Ben Roberts (1916)...Screenplay
Virginia Kellogg (1907)...Story

Louis F. Edelman (1900)

Sidney Hickox (1895)

Max Steiner (1888)...Composer

James Cagney (1899) as Arthur 'Cody' Jarrett
Virginia Mayo (1920) as Verna Jarrett
Edmond O'Brien (1915) as Vic Pardo
Margaret Wycherly (1881) as Ma Jarrett
Steve Cochran (1917) as Big Ed Somers
John Archer (1915) as Philip Evans
Wally Cassell (1915) as 'Cotton' Valletti
Fred Clark (1914) as Daniel Winston

       In 1943, after the success of Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney decided not to renew his studio contract with Warner Bros. He had started Grand National pictures in 1935 as an outlet for independent productions, and now he wanted to make films that he felt were best for his career. But after four rather lackluster films in the following six years, Cagney decided to return to Warner’s and re-energize his failing career. White Heat would be his first offering and would return him to the genre that had made him famous twenty years earlier.

       After World War II, the public's fascination with gangsters had changed. No longer were they seen as romantic rebel heroes of the depression era, but as a menace to the freedom and prosperity we had fought to protect during the war. Cagney understood this change in the taste of the viewing public and decided to turn Cody Jarrett into a ruthless psychopath. Jarrett is a cold-blooded criminal with a deep-rooted Oedipal complex that is nurtured by his doting, and gun-toting mother (Margaret Wycherly). Only ‘Ma’ truly understands what makes her precious little boy tick, and she is the only person who can comfort him during one of his ‘spells’, the momentary seizures that incapacitate Jarrett with agonizing and blinding pain in his head. Over the course of his life, these seizures have molded Jarrett’s character into a psychopathic package of hostility, paranoia and incorrigibility.

       At the beginning of the film Jarrett and his gang rob a train and the conductor is killed. When the Fed’s pin the robbery and the murder on him, Jarrett decides to confess to a different charge in another state to avoid the gas chamber. The FBI wants to gain access to Jarrett’s inner circle and places a spy in the prison where Jarrett is serving his term. Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) is an FBI specialist in undercover operations who is planted in Jarrett’s cell to try to infiltrate Cody’s gang. As Vic Pardo, he saves Cody’s life when one of Jarrett’s henchmen, Big Ed (Steve Cochran) organizes an attempt on his life in the prison machine shop. This ingratiates him with Cody’s inner circle, and when Jarrett makes his escape in an attempt to seek revenge on Big Ed for the botched hit and also for killing his precious mother, Vic is brought along.

       After Big Ed is dealt with, the gang plans a heist of a payroll at an oil and gas refinery. Fallon alerts the task force assigned to capture Jarrett and as the gang attempts the robbery, the government agents surround the refinery. It is here that a new member of the gang that recognizes the Federal agent from an arrest years earlier blows Fallon’s cover. Fallon escapes before Jarrett can exact any kind of revenge and events start to spiral out of control for Jarrett and his gang. All of Cody’s cohorts are either killed or captured as Jarrett makes his way to the top of a large fuel storage tank. When he refuses to surrender, a bullet fired by Fallon with a high-powered snipers rifle wounds him. This sets the psychopathic Jarrett on a suicidal rampage as he starts shooting at the valves and pipes of the storage tank.
(click to show/hide)

       Of all the gangster films that James Cagney made, this was his greatest. It is the one role that he is most associated with and would be the benchmark for future actors to emulate in their interpretations of maniacal and psychopathic criminals.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 06:48:44 PM by Antares »


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Re: White Heat (1949)
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2010, 12:54:06 PM »
It fascinated me when I learned from Martin Scorcese American Film documentary that the Gangster and Musical genres were so closely related, actors like Cagney were accomplished musical stars. You can hear the rhythm in the dialogue, it's just fantastic.