Ma Jarrett: Top of the world son!
Cody Jarrett (James Cagney), a leader of a gang of robbers aims to the top of the world.
He is not an ordinary gangster, we see him as a tough, wild character but also as a vulnerable, psychologically unstable man: he has strong headaches and he is strongly attached to his “Ma” (Margaret Wycherly) who is also part of the gang and as ruthless as a gangster can be.
Cody’s femme fatale wife Verna (Virgina Mayo) is not faithful to him and she has eye for gang member Big Ed. Jarrett lives in a tough world in which few people can be trusted:
Cody Jarrett: You know something, Verna, if I turn my back long enough for Big Ed to put a hole in it, there'd be a hole in it.
After being giving himself up by the police for some minor crime – an alibi for a violent armed robbery - he manages to direct his gang while he is in prison.
In jail he is befriended by Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) – an undercover policeman who has taken the identity of Vic Pardo. Both plan a big heist and Hank will take the role of Ma Jarrett as Cody’s moral and mental support.
Eventually Cody will discover Fallon’s real identity but it will be too late, he will be heading towards his ending.
Cody Jarrett: A copper, a copper, how do you like that boys? A copper and his name is Fallon. And we went for it, I went for it. Treated him like a kid brother. And I was gonna split fifty-fifty with a copper!
Cody trapped in an oil refinery plant has no way to escape… This seems the epic closing chapter to Cagney’s gangster movies of the 30s
Cody Jarrett: Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
Philip Evans: Cody Jarrett...
Hank Fallon: He finally got to the top of the world... and it blew right up in his face.