Scott Joplin (1977)

TV Movie  |  PG  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music  |  30 December 1977 (USA)
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Details the life story of Scott Joplin and how he became the greatest ragtime composer of all time.


(as Jeremy Paul Kagan)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Belle Joplin
Eubie Blake ...
Will Williams
Tom Turpin
Dr. Jaelki
Madam Amy
Taj Mahal ...
Poor Alfred
Spo-De-Odee ...
Left Hand of God
John Stark
David Healy ...
Sam Bundler
Samuel Fuller ...
Leon Charles ...
Fred Pinkard ...
Dr. Adams


Details the life story of Scott Joplin and how he became the greatest ragtime composer of all time.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Scott Joplin's Ragtime Music Portrayed American Life.


Biography | Drama | Music






Release Date:

30 December 1977 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Originally a made-for-TV movie but was released to theaters first instead. See more »


John Stark: You were overpowered by the extravagance of sound, the sheer weight of volume. Your music was never meant to compete at that level. It was just never heard.
Scott Joplin: Well, it will be heard! If volume is what they want, volume is what they'll get!
John Stark: What are you talking about?
Scott Joplin: I'm going to write an opera.
John Stark: An opera?
Scott Joplin: An opera in ragtime. A ragtime opera.
John Stark: Why?
Scott Joplin: Because it is right!
See more »


written by Scott Joplin
performed by Dick Hyman
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User Reviews

A film that gets harder to watch as it progresses.
25 August 2013 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

"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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