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Cagney in White Heat


FilmFanaticFrankie
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Has there ever been a more riveting performance as Cagney's portrayal of Cody Jarret!

What did he have to do to win an Oscar, as it didn't get much better than that.

It may now be looked back as perhaps the quintessential gangser role, nothing is equal after viewing this pic!

Mamma's boy is tough as nails but has a soft spot in his heart for Ma but doesn't let anyone catch on for fear he might be soft.

The prison sequence where he loses it and the power plant ending is a complete masterpiece. What a performance.

Was there a bad performance in the entire movie?

 

Message was edited by: FilmFanaticFrankie

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This film has so many memorable scenes. The cops chasing down the radio-beacon truck for the big hold-up, the prison scenes, even the informer's trying a rag "marker" on the bumper as Ma Margaret Wycherly is buying fresh strawberries for her boy.

 

Wycherly delivered an eerily similar role in the recently-shown JOHNNY ANGEL with George Raft, but ends up wearing the white hat instead.

 

It's a shame that only now I'm starting to notice her performances outside of WHITE HEAT. She was terrific in that film - here's a case where the maniac might have been born AND made!

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Absolutely amazing movie! The very best flat-out gangster film ever made. My favorite moments are the ones where Edmund O'Brien has to cover his actions so as not to get caught. I really fear for him. Everything about this wonderful classic is dynamite.

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Edison, that's right! I forgot about Ma York!

 

Red, White Heat conjures up so many memorable scenes. O'Brien's excuse for attaching the antenna - er, chain - to the truck. His attempt to get away at night, his repairs on the radio.

 

Earlier, someone mentioned Fred Clark's first film credit in THE UNSUSPECTED. WHITE HEAT is Fred's 12th film credit, and his catalog of films seems to cover everything - gangsters, noirs, mysteries, comedies, musicals, war films. Always an easy face to see in a crowd, always delivering an excellent bit.

 

It's funny to see O'Brien 'trap him' with questions, and yet earn even more brownie-points in Cody Jarrett's eyes for that caution.

 

It's a great story. "Greatest Gangster Film" would be a worthy title, but "great film" in any category, too.

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  • 6 months later...

I'm a huge James Cagney fan, and proud to say I've seen every film he ever made; I think Cody Jarrett is his greatest performance. As others have said, White Heat has to rank at, or very near, the top of the list of all-time gangster films. The number of memorable scenes is endless, and the dialogue throughout is brilliant. My favorite lines:

 

Cody to Verna (Virginia Mayo) talking about Steve Cochran's character, Big Ed:

 

Cody: "You know, Verna, if I turned around long enough for Big Ed to put a hole in my back...there'd be a hole in my back."

 

Last scene, after the huge oil refinery explosion.

 

Evans: "Cody Jarrett."

Fallon (Edmond O'Brien): "He finally made it to the top of the world, and it blew right up in his face."

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What an utterly unrelenting film both from the standpoint of Cagney's once-in-a-lifetime performance and the electrifying direction of Raoul Walsh. Yet perhaps the single most disturbing aspect of this film is the queasy relationship between Cody Jarrett (Cagney) and Vic Pardo (Edmond O'Brien), the police informant who's brought in to bring the gangster down. The friendship they develop while they're in prison--and later once they escape--becomes that much more meaningful and real because of Cagney's uncanny ability to make an unrepentant psychotic so sympathetic. O'Brien's methodical betrayal of Cagney is at once expected and dreaded, casting a veil of uncertainty and confusion over our emotions regarding this action. (It is far more distressing to us than when Jarrett's wayward wife (Virginia Mayo) conspires with henchman Steve Cochrane to do the old boy in.) And therein lies the hidden love story in *WHITE HEAT* --Cagney and O'Brien. One that the censors clearly never spotted.

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DEWEY: "And therein lies the hidden love story in WHITE HEAT --Cagney and O'Brien. One that the censors clearly never spotted."

 

Wonderfully written post Dewey. I agree with you. I think a lot of film noir had these hidden love stories that were hiding in plain sight. What comes to mind is John Hodiak and Wendell Corey in "Desert Fury" or Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn in the (unsung?) Western: "Warlock."

 

Nicely dewed, Dewey. ;-)

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Thanks, CM. For another intriguing mano-a-mano noir relationship, check out Joseph H. Lewis' brilliant 1955 film *THE BIG COMBO.* The dynamic sexual tensions betwixt adversaries Cornel Wilde and Richard Conte are nothing short of revelatory--at least by 1950s standards. It's available on a beautiful DVD transfer from Image. Incidentally, it was photographed by the legendary cinematographer John Alton. Highly recommended!

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> {quote:title=CineMaven wrote:}{quote}

> DEWEY: "And therein lies the hidden love story in WHITE HEAT --Cagney and O'Brien. One that the censors clearly never spotted."

>

> Wonderfully written post Dewey. I agree with you. I think a lot of film noir had these hidden love stories that were hiding in plain sight. What comes to mind is John Hodiak and Wendell Corey in "Desert Fury" or Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn in the (unsung?) Western: "Warlock."

>

 

"Hidden Love Stories" - what a great TCM theme that would make ;)

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What's (wonderfully) disturbing about WHITE HEAT is the id-explosiveness of Cody, contrasted with the rational-ego F.B.I. men out to "contain" him.

 

Virginia Mayo was warming up for Verna in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. She's terrific.

 

Needless to say, I love this movie. It used to run on Million Dollar Movie in the Bronx back in the day.

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*What's (wonderfully) disturbing about WHITE HEAT is the id-explosiveness of Cody, contrasted with the rational-ego F.B.I. men out to "contain" him.*

 

Hi Bg---Happy Labor Day! And yes, that very quality helps *WHITE HEAT* achieve its status as one of the most pre-code-like post-code Hollywood films ever made. Brutal on-screen violence, adulterous behavior (Mayo and Cochrane), a sympathetic portrayal of a psychopathic killer and a psychologically disturbing relationship between mother and son. Hardly seems like the ingredients for an American film released in 1949.

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