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Billy Dee Williams,
James Earl Jones,
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A film that gets harder to watch as it progresses.
"Scott Joplin" is an unusual made for TV film in that it was, briefly, released in theaters just before it aired on TV. It stars Billy Dee Williams as the famed composer. It's also unusual for its choice of Joplin as a subject for the film because the guy died from syphilis (something folks RARELY talked about in 1977) and his later years were spent deteriorating more and more--a tough sort of film to put over to the viewing audience. However, the film DID find an audience and won a Writer's Guild award.
The film picks up with Joplin an adult and playing music in brothels. Soon he meets and befriends Louis Chauvin (Clifton David) and they come to the attention of a music publisher/promoter (Art Carney). For a while, things look great--Joplin marries and he achieves moderate success. But because of his syphilis (which was pretty much untreatable at that time) his career and marriage slowly spiraled downward. His final years were A LOT worse than they show in the movie and his decline lasted far longer--but regardless, he died young in a mental institution--committed due to his dementia.
If you think this movie is a giant downer, you are right. The first half is quite enjoyable and I loved the music. The second half was a chore to watch--and the music portion of the film suffered because Joplin was no longer functional. Well done but hard to watch.
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