Tuesday, August 14, 2012
White Heat (1949).
White Heat(1949). Film Noir. Cast: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien, Margaret Wycherly and Steve Cochran. Directed by Raoul Walsh from the Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts screenplay based on a story by Virginia Kellogg.
While Cody Jarrett and his ruthless gang robs a train, Cody kills the engineers and as one of them falls, it hits a steam valve, scalding bad guy, Zuckie Hommell.
Along with Cody's mother and his wife Verna, the gang hides out in the mountains. Ma, is the only one who knows what to do to help him though his migraine headaches. She also helps him fight off Big Ed Somers, who wants to take over the gang and get Verna for himself.
During a thunderstorm, Cody decides to leave the hideout with his gang. He tells Zuchie that he will send a doctor back to take care of him, but.. orders Cotton Valleti to kill him. Instead Cotton, pretends to kill him and leaves a pack of cigarettes behind.
After Zuckie's body, is found along with Cotton's prints on the cigarettes, the Treasury Department has enough evidence to link the train robbery to Cody's gang. Agent Philip Evans and his men come close to catching Cody, but.. thanks to Ma, the gang escapes.
Cody, comes up with an alibi for the murderous train robbery, by confessing to a smaller robbery in Illinois that took place at the same time. Evans, knows that Cody is lying, but.. cannot prove it. He sends undercover agent Hank Fallon. Under the name Vic Pardo, Hank to jail, where he plans to befriend Cody.
Meanwhile.. Big Ed, takes over the gang.
At the prison, Hank saves Cody's life when Roy Parker, one of Big Ed's thugs, try to kill him. After Ma hears about the attack, she promises Cody that she will take care of Big Ed. Back in his cell Cody, has one of his headaches and Hank helps Cody, the way his mother did. Later that night, Cody shares his plans to escape. Hank, passes on the escape plans to an agent who is pretending to be his wife, but.. on the day of the planned escape, a newly arrived prisoner tells him that Ma is dead.
Cody, loses it in the prison mess hall and is taken to the dispensary. There, he uses a smuggled gun to take the doctor hostage and along with Hank, Parker and two other in-mates, makes his escape. Outside, Cody kills Parker and then heads for Bakersfield to avenge Ma's death.
Even though it was Verna, who killed Ma, she tells Cody that Big Ed shot her in the back. Cody kills Big Ed and then joins the rest of the gang. Cody, plans to rob a payroll by sneaking the gang into a company inside an oil tanker. Will Hank, be able to tip off the police in time, before any one else is hurt?.
If the surprise expressed by James Cagney's fellow inmates during "the telephone game" scene in the prison dining room appears real, it's because it is. Director Raoul Walsh didn't tell the rest of the cast what was about to happen, so Cagney's outburst caught them by surprise. In fact, Walsh himself didn't know what Cagney had planned; the scene as written wasn't working, and Cagney had an idea. He told Walsh to put the two biggest extras playing cons in the mess-hall next to him on the bench (he used their shoulders to boost himself onto the table) and to keep the cameras rolling no matter what.
The unusually close relationship between Cody Jarrett and his domineering mother was inspired by real life bank robbers Kate Barker (aka "Ma Barker") and her sons.
I' m not really a James Cagney fan but, I did enjoy him in this film His character, Cody Jarrett, is one of the best classic movie bad guys you will find on film. Cagney's wife, is played very well, by one of my favorite actress Virginia Mayo. The final scene of White Heat, is one you will not soon forget.
Twelve years later, Wycherley appeared in Sergeant York in 1941. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role of Mother York, though perhaps her best remembered screen role was as "Ma Jarrett", the mother of the psychopathic gangster Cody Jarrett, in White Heat (1949), which famously starred James Cagney.
Wycherly starred in several popular Broadway plays, including Tobacco Road, Random Harvest, Liliom, Six Characters in Search of an Author and The Thirteenth Chair (which role she reprised in the film of the same name). Her other films include Keeper of the Flame, The Yearling, Forever Amber, The Man with a Cloak and Johnny Angel starring George Raft.