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Movie Review - White Heat (1949 - United States)

Updated on May 29, 2012

It astonishes me that wonderful pictures such as the Raoul Walsh/James Cagney definitive gangster picture, 1949's White Heat are now only a mouseclick away!

Because I spent many years in L.A, surrounded by other people who loved old movies, many of whom had extensive private collections — on reels , of course, this was way pre-VHS — I forget that not everyone has seen these pictures. Whether you are new to classic film or — like myself — rediscovering these gems, I cannot recommend this picture highly enough.

Watch this great gangster movie right now:

James Cagney & Virginia Mayo in White Heat

Watch the original 1949 trailer!


Without either the nostalgic ambience of The Godfather films to draw us into the character's lives, or the use of contemporary music and a strip club to provide a constant glaze of seductive sexuality to give us a sense of intimacy with them, as in The Sopranos , we nevertheless empathize with Cagney's character with a completeness that subverts law and order. All the acting here is wonderful, including Virginia Mayo as Cagney's two-timing gun moll of a wife, Steve Cochran as his rival for the affections of both wife and posse, and of course Cagney's psychotic tough broad of a mommy, Margaret Wycherly.

Classic Cagney!

If you on-demand, rent or purchase it today, you will be watching a beautifully restored print, in glorious black and white, with fascinating added features. Watch it and enjoy the last great gangster film of the classic era, and — arguably — the best of the genre ever filmed.

Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.

(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at

Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Classics

Rated: Unrated

Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

In Theaters: Jan 1, 1949

On DVD: Jan 25, 2005

Directed By: Raoul Walsh

Written By: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts


James Cagney ... Cody Jarrett

Virginia Mayo ... Verna Jarrett

Edmond O'Brien ... Hank Fallon / Vic Pardo

Margaret Wycherly ... Ma Jarrett

Steve Cochran ... Big Ed Somers

John Archer ... Philip Evans

One of the most famous scenes ever filmed, Cagney at the end of Raoul Walsh's 1949 gangster story, White Heat

Watch these other classic films right now:

What do you think of White Heat?

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    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Do you have a favorite gangster movie, old or new? If so, please use the Comment box to let me know......