Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

White Heat (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

White Heat (1949)

In director Raoul Walsh's exciting Freudian-tinged gangster film:

  • the opening mail-train robbery sequence in the High Sierra at the California border
  • Arthur "Cody" Jarrett's (James Cagney) mother-fixation, exemplified by sitting on his crooked mother's - "Ma" Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly) - lap when he described the feeling of pain in his head during debilitating headaches: "It's like having a - it's like having a red hot buzzsaw inside my head"
  • the instances that Cody shot people through objects (a car trunk, an apartment door)
  • the 'accident' scene in the prison's machine shop
  • the screeching of the machines that portrayed Cody's mental state
  • the 3-minute prison dining-hall sequence when Cody passed a question about his mother ("Ask him how my mother is?") down a long line of prisoners sitting at a table; the camera panned to the left as each prisoner whispered the question to the next guy; word of Cody's mother's death ("She's dead") was then passed back (prisoner to prisoner) and when it reached Cody, he had a beserk, epileptic reaction - standing on and sprawling across the table, and then attacking the guards and making gutteral sounds before being dragged away
  • Cody's final cry: "Made it Ma. Top of the world," and his fiery ending atop the globe-shaped gas tanks as they exploded in the climax
  • the film's concluding words, spoken by undercover agent Hank Fallon (Edmond O'Brien): "He finally got to the top of the world... and it blew right up in his face"


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