Ma Barker was reputed to be the matriarch of the Barker Gang, a notorious collection of thieves, kidnappers and murderers in the Midwest U.S., many of whom happened to be her sons. She died next to one of them after a police siege that riddled their hideout with bullets.
When Hollywood got around to memorializing the story in celluloid, they condensed her collection of offspring into a single, incandescent, oedipal, psychopath, re-christened Cody Jarrett. Then it was just a matter of convincing the one actor who could do justice to the role to come onboard. Jimmy Cagney had long since left behind the gangster films that made him famous. In fact, so had Hollywood. A stifling production code and waning audience interest had more or less squelched the genre.
But in 1949, the time seemed right for a reboot. And Cagney, whose star was fading, needed a hit. It turned out to be the perfect fit. Under Raoul Walsh's direction, Cagney burned up the screen as the doomed villain. Playing ice to his fire, the great Margaret Wycherly as "Ma" Jarrett helped establish "White Heat" as one of the greatest gangster movies of them all [source: Parkinson].
Author's Note: 10 Mob Movies Inspired by True Events
When it comes to gangster movies, it's impossible to put together one that doesn't leave more out than it includes. In putting together this collection, I wanted some of the usual suspects, like "GoodFellas," because, well, they deserve to be here. But I also thought it would be good to add in a few, like "Bandit Queen" that have faded from view and shouldn't be forgotten.
More Great Links
- Benson, Sheila. "'GoodFellas': Meaner Streets." LA Times. Sept. 19, 1990. (Sept. 5, 2018) http://articles.latimes.com/1990-09-19/entertainment/ca-807_1_wise-guys
- Bradshaw, Peter. "Mesrine: Killer Instinct." The Guardian. Aug. 7, 2009. (Sept. 5, 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/aug/07/mesrine-killer-instinct-film
- Bradshaw, Peter. "Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One." The Guardian. Aug. 28, 2009. (Sept. 5, 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/aug/28/mesrine-public-enemy-review
- Canby, Vincent. "Imamura's 'Pigs and Battleships." The New York Times. 1986. (Sept. 6, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/1986/07/09/movies/film-imamura-s-pigs-and-battleships.html
- Click On Detroit. "The Story of White Boy Rick." (September 3, 2018) https://www.clickondetroit.com/white-boy-rick
- Corliss, Richard. "Gangs of Rio de Janeiro." Time. Jan. 15, 2003. (Sept. 4, 2018) http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101030120-407332,00.html
- Debruge, Peter. "Telluride Film Review: 'White Boy Rick.'" Variety. Sep. 1, 2018. (Sep. 3, 2018) https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/white-boy-rick-review-matthew-mcconaughey-1202923714/
- Ebert, Roger. "Bandit Queen." Roger Ebert.com July 14, 1995. (Sept. 3, 2018) https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/bandit-queen-1995
- Ebert, Roger. "Bonnie and Clyde." Sept. 25, 1967. (Sept. 3, 2018) https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/bonnie-and-clyde-1967
- Elley, Derek. "The General – Biopic Captures Irish Crime Lord." Variety. May 25, 1998. (Sept. 6, 2018) https://variety.com/1998/film/reviews/the-general-biopic-captures-irish-crime-lord-1200453540/
- Morris, Wesley. "Gomorrah." Boston Globe. Feb. 27, 2009. (Sept. 4, 2018) http://archive.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2009/02/27/stranglehold/
- Parkinson, David. "White Heat Review." Empire. Jan. 1, 2000. (Sept. 6, 2018) https://www.empireonline.com/movies/white-heat/review/
- Variety Staff. "Review of Salvatore Giuliano." Variety. March 26, 2008. (Sept. 6, 2018)
- Warner Bros. "Bonnie and Clyde." (Sept. 3, 2018) https://www.warnerbros.com/bonnie-and-clyde
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