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White Heat
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Cast:Raoul Walsh, James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien

James Cagney's career was filled with largely indifferent films in which his incredible charisma and overwhelming acting ability enabled him to deliver unforgettable performances. In White Heat, however, he found a vehicle worthy of his talents. This potentially routine police procedural was elevated to the level of a cinematic classic by skillful direction, brilliant performances, and a story line built on fascinatingly perverse relationships between the characters. Psychotic mama's boy and gangster Cody Jarrett (Cagney) executes a daring train robbery, which sets off a chain of events that leads to his downfall at the hands of an undercover detective (Edmond O'Brien). Cagney had said "no more" to gangster films and left Warner Bros. years before, unhappy with the studio's exploitation of his familiar tough-guy screen persona. White Heat marked his triumphant return, and he pulls out all the stops -- his chilling prison breakdown was based on a childhood visit to an insane asylum. Director Raoul Walsh specialized in action films, creating efficiently told tales of masculine behavior and ambition, and this was one of his best. Amy Robinson

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