White Heat

White Heat (1949) movie poster

(1949) dir. Raoul Walsh
viewed: 11/23/08

My third gangster/noir installment for the day was White Heat with the brilliant James Cagney in one of his most notable roles, featuring another of the great lines and finales, “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” as Cagney’s character Cody Jarrett stands atop a huge oil tank just before it explodes.  Hot stuff, indeed.

It’s a funny thing about finally coming around to seeing these classic films that are so filled with lines and scenes and performances that are widely recognizable from American culture all over the place.  How many people who haven’t ever seen a James Cagney movie who would at least be familiar with the aforementioned clip?  It’s strange, a familiarity mixed within the new.  Because I had never seen this film.  Much of it was brand new to me.

It’s more of an action film in some ways, more modern, in a sense, in its pacing and narrative, especially with the final caper, the police chase, and the shootout.  The complex portrayal of Cody and his mother is again so iconic, yet totally great.  There’s a lot of good stuff throughout but this takes the cake.

Again, I don’t think I’m as familiar with Cagney’s work as most people my age and older would be.  I don’t know that I’ve seen any of his major films.  Well, that will change.  I’ve got to see The Public Enemy (1931) now.  And there are quite a few others out there…I’ll have to see them too.

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