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Faked Headaches Becoming Real


  • Joost Haan MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurology, Rijnland Hospital Leiderdorp, Leiderdorp, The Netherlands
    • Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • An analysis of headache attacks in James Cagney's last gangster movie White Heat.

Address all correspondence to J. Haan, Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


In the gangster movie White Heat, the main character, Cody (played by James Cagney), suffers from 2 headache attacks. Here, I analyze these attacks by using the International Headache Society criteria, but an unequivocal diagnosis is not possible. Nevertheless, the attacks play an important role in the narrative and – as representation of something between “real” (mimesis) and not real – provide a ground for reflection on how to think of headache in general.