Anjela Musgrove

Anjela Musgrove

Modified & Updated: 08 Sep 2023


White Heat is a classic crime film that has captivated audiences since its release in 1949. Directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney, this film has stood the test of time with its gripping storyline and memorable performances. Set in the world of organized crime, White Heat follows the story of Cody Jarrett, a ruthless gangster with a complicated past. As the audience is taken on a journey through the criminal underworld, they are immersed in a world of violence, loyalty, and betrayal. With its intense action sequences, unforgettable characters, and iconic one-liners, White Heat has solidified its place in cinema history. In this article, we will explore 31 fascinating facts about the making of White Heat that will give you a deeper appreciation for this film noir masterpiece.

Table of Contents

“White Heat” was released in 1949.

Directed by Raoul Walsh, this classic crime film starring James Cagney and Virginia Mayo hit the theaters in 1949.

It is considered one of the greatest gangster movies of all time.

“White Heat” is hailed as a masterpiece in the genre, known for its gripping plot and intense performances.

James Cagney’s portrayal of Cody Jarrett is iconic.

Cagney’s performance as the ruthless and volatile gang leader Cody Jarrett is widely regarded as one of his best roles.

The movie features a famous line: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”

One of the most memorable moments in “White Heat” is when Cody Jarrett utters this line moments before meeting his demise.

The film explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and family.

Alongside the thrilling action, “White Heat” delves into complex relationships and the consequences of choices made within a criminal underworld.

The movie has a runtime of approximately 114 minutes.

Despite being released over 70 years ago, “White Heat” remains captivating throughout its duration.

It was a critical and commercial success.

“White Heat” received positive reviews from critics and performed well at the box office, solidifying its place in cinematic history.

The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In 2003, “White Heat” was deemed culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant and was added to the prestigious National Film Registry.

The iconic final scene takes place atop an industrial gas storage tank.

The thrilling climax of the movie plays out amidst flames and explosions, adding to the intense atmosphere.

“White Heat” showcases the power of a strong and charismatic lead

Cagney’s captivating portrayal of Cody Jarrett demonstrates the impact a captivating protagonist can have on a film’s success.

The film’s cinematography is praised for its striking visuals.

The use of lighting and camera angles in “White Heat” enhances the tension and adds depth to the story being told.

“White Heat” defied some traditional gangster movie conventions.

Rather than focusing solely on action, the film delves into the psychological complexities of its characters.

The movie features a strong supporting cast.

Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, and Margaret Wycherly deliver standout performances alongside Cagney.

“White Heat” inspired future filmmakers.

The film’s impact on subsequent generations of directors and actors is evident in its influence on crime dramas and character-driven narratives.

The famous tagline for the film is: “He’s worse than Jesse James.”

This clever marketing slogan added to the anticipation and allure surrounding “White Heat” upon its release.

The movie combines elements of film noir and the gangster genre.

This blend of styles creates a unique and atmospheric experience for the audience.

“White Heat” explores the dangerous allure of power and ambition.

The film delves into the darker aspects of human nature, highlighting the consequences of unchecked ambition.

The musical score was composed by Max Steiner.

Steiner’s music adds to the tension and drama of “White Heat,” enhancing the overall viewing experience.

The film’s depiction of prison life is gritty and realistic.

“White Heat” provides a glimpse into the harsh realities of life behind bars, showcasing the brutal and unforgiving nature of the criminal justice system.

It has been referenced in popular culture numerous times.

From parodies to homages, “White Heat” has left a lasting imprint on the film and television industry.

The movie showcases a classic “heist gone wrong” storyline.

The tension builds as the characters navigate the complexities of their criminal endeavors and face the consequences of their actions.

“White Heat” explores the concept of betrayal within criminal organizations.

The film raises questions about loyalty and trust as characters grapple with their allegiances.

The movie’s intense action sequences keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

From daring escapes to shootouts, “White Heat” delivers thrilling moments that contribute to its enduring popularity.

The screenplay was written by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts.

The duo crafted a gripping and suspenseful narrative that continues to captivate audiences to this day.

“White Heat” is recognized for its innovative use of the “crazy mother” archetype.

Margaret Wycherly’s portrayal of Cody Jarrett’s mother is both chilling and captivating, adding an extra layer of complexity to the story.

The film showcases the psychological toll of a life of crime.

Characters in “White Heat” grapple with guilt, paranoia, and the consequences of their actions, depicting the human cost of their choices.

It features a memorable scene involving a gasoline truck explosion.

This iconic moment adds to the tension and showcases the dangers faced by the characters.

“White Heat” explores the concept of the anti-hero.

Cody Jarrett’s complex character, with his own moral code and troubled past, challenges traditional notions of heroism.

The film’s gritty realism has contributed to its lasting impact.

“White Heat” presents a world where violence and corruption are ever-present, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

The character of Cody Jarrett has become synonymous with James Cagney.

Cagney’s portrayal of the charismatic and unpredictable gangster has become an iconic part of his legacy as an actor.

“White Heat” continues to be celebrated by critics and fans alike.

Seventy years since its release, the film’s impact and influence on the crime genre is still felt, solidifying its status as a true cinematic classic.


White Heat is a gripping crime film that continues to captivate audiences with its intense storyline and unforgettable characters. With its iconic performances, masterful direction, and memorable dialogue, it has secured its place as a classic in the world of cinema.

The film’s exploration of themes such as loyalty, revenge, and the depths of human nature, combined with its high-octane action and suspenseful plot twists, make it a must-watch for any fan of the crime genre.

Whether you’re a movie buff or just looking for a thrilling cinematic experience, White Heat is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat and craving for more.


1. Who directed the movie White Heat?

The movie White Heat was directed by Raoul Walsh.

2. When was White Heat released?

White Heat was released on September 2, 1949.

3. Who starred in White Heat?

James Cagney delivered a brilliant performance as the ruthless gangster Cody Jarrett in White Heat. The film also features Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, and Margaret Wycherly.

4. What is the plot of White Heat?

The movie follows the story of Cody Jarrett, a volatile and deranged gangster who leads a gang responsible for a series of daring train robberies. As the law enforcement closes in on him, Cody’s emotional instability and complicated relationships within his gang become major obstacles in his pursuit of criminal success.

5. Is White Heat based on a true story?

No, White Heat is not based on a true story. It is a fictional crime film inspired by various elements of organized crime during the time it was made.

6. What makes White Heat a classic film?

White Heat is considered a classic film due to its impactful performances, taut direction, and its exploration of interesting themes. It also features one of the most iconic and memorable endings in movie history.

7. Has White Heat received any awards?

While White Heat did not receive any major awards upon its release, it has gained critical acclaim over the years and is now regarded as one of the greatest gangster films of all time.

8. Can I watch White Heat online?

Yes, White Heat is readily available for streaming on various online platforms. You can find it on streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu.

9. Are there any similar movies to White Heat?

If you enjoyed the intense crime drama and captivating performances of White Heat, you might also enjoy other classic gangster films such as “The Public Enemy” (1931), “Scarface” (1983), and “Goodfellas” (1990).

10. Is White Heat suitable for all audiences?

It is important to note that White Heat is a crime film with elements of violence and adult themes. It is recommended for mature audiences due to its intense nature.