White Heat (Sous-titres franais)
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White Heat (DVD)
This superb 1949 crime drama takes elements of plot, character, and theme familiar from '30s melodramas and orchestrates them as an existential tragedy noir. James Cagney, in a towering performance, is Cody Jarrett, a transparently psychotic robber with a molten temper, feral cunning, and mercurial charm that are finely calibrated extensions of the doomed gangsters he played a decade before, this time coiled not around a Depression-era impetus of greed or class rivalry, but an Oedipal bond. Cody's beloved, calculating "Ma" (Margaret Wycherly) is the compass for his every move, her iron will and long shadow acknowledged not only by Cody but by his gang, his bored, restless wife (Virginia Mayo, radiating sensuality and guile), and the undercover cop (Edmond O'Brien) planted in Jarrett's path.
Director Raoul Walsh propels the story from a rolling start, a tautly paced train robbery that goes awry, culminating in the leader's capture. An ambitious henchman (Steve Cochran) plots a behind-bars hit foiled by O'Brien, who's infiltrated the prison to befriend Jarrett, a goal handily accomplished with the rescue. Jarrett's paranoia, murderous anger, and longing for his mother are interwoven with intermittent, incapacitating headaches that underline and amplify his core of inner rage; Cagney makes these seizures harrowing, revealing purely animal pain and terror at once frightening and pathetic.
Jarrett's escape, the gang's reunion with fellow escapee O'Brien aboard, trusted by Jarrett but not his partners, and the big score that unravels in a climactic gun battle in an oil refinery are conducted with a gritty economy, and Walsh and his cast evoke a criminal life devoid of glamour, noteworthy for the undercurrents of distrust that keep tempers flaring. The final showdown, and Jarrett's crazed, taunting battle cry in the face of death ("Top of the world, Ma!"), achieve a sense of tragic inevitability that deservedly make this a defining moment in Cagney's screen career. --Sam Sutherland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
At the time it was released many critics warned audiences about the movie's level of violence. By today's standards the violence isn't much: you won't find oozing gore. But WHITE HEAT bests most modern films in terms of brutality. You might not see the blood pouring, but the harsh tone of the film and its vicious characters create a sense of violence that generally outstrips more graphic modern films. The pace of the film is driving, the story and dialogue convincing, and the cast top-notch all the way.
James Cagney spent much of the 1940s trying to distance himself from the gangster roles he created in the 1930s, but he returns to the genre in what may be his single finest performance as Cody Jarrett, career criminal, gang leader, and easily one of the most psychotic criminals Hollywood has ever portrayed. Backed by his equally dangerous mother and perfidious wife (Margaret Wycherly and Virginia Mayo, both of whom give the performances of their careers), Jarrett undertakes a train holdup--and when things get too hot tries to sidetrack the cops by taking a rap on a minor charge.Read more ›
The action starts with the gang robbing a train and two banks before heading for a hideout. During the robberies there are some unnecessary killings. In order to take the heat off the gang Cody manages to turn himself in for a much lesser crime committed in another state at the same time. He will serve only two years for this crime and Ma Jarrett will run the gang in his absence. Undercover agent Edmund O'Brien is placed in prison as Cody's cellmate to get information from him about the robberies. In spite of a few close calls O'Brien is able to avoid detection and finds himself unwittingly travelling with the gang after a prison escape. At this point the action and tension increase exponentially as the film moves toward a memorable climax.
Cagney had gone about ten years without a big hit and was fifty years old at the time of this movie. He decided to resort to the successful gangster formula of his earlier career and the move proved to be very wise. The strong supporting cast included John Archer, Wally Cassell, Fred Clark and Ford Rainey. WHITE HEAT received an Oscar nomination in 1949 for Best Motion Picture Story. Raoul Walsh directed many other fine films during his career such as GENTLEMAN JIM and HIGH SIERRA.
Most recent customer reviews
I purchased this DVD after seeing it on TCM. I am a newcomer to the older film genre, but as a fan of the good guys vs. Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2009 by Shawn Mccuaig
Well, the opinions are uniformal.This is one one of the most enjoyable gangster flicks of all times.Cagneys performance is more than just memorable. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2004
One has to wonder what the AFI was thinking when they made up their "100 Movies" lists. It's bad enough that they ignored "White Heat" on their greatest movies, but it's a crime... Read morePublished on Jan. 19 2002
This is a great 40s gangster movie! I watched all of it in one sitting! However, this site forgot some great quotes... Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2001 by Deirdre
"One day he's gonna get a big one...about me, and it'll be his last", as Cagney falls to the floor in another series of headaches. This is a truly wonderful movie. Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2000 by Jeremy Caskey
"White Heat" is just another one of those gangster films of the thirties and forties.Some of them are really impressive with the wisdom that they put on society, but this... Read morePublished on June 26 2000 by Michel Pilon
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