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?


The only other composers mentioned as worthy equals in the film are John Philip Sousa and Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton. 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 »


Weeping Willow
written by Scott Joplin
performed by Dick Hyman
See more »

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User Reviews

More fiction than fact, but the music makes it worthwhile
29 July 2004 | by (Appleton, WI) – See all my reviews

The man who gave us the Maple Leaf Rag and the Entertainer, Scott Joplin, once said that he would not become known until fifty years after his death.

He wasn't off by much--it took fifty-six. In 1973, Marvin Hamlisch used the then-largely unknown Joplin's music in the movie "The Sting," spurring a ragtime revival and a renewed interest in Joplin specifically. Joplin's work received long-overdue attention from music scholars, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer for his body of work, some fifty known rags, waltzes, marches--and one opera, Treemonisha.

This movie rode the wave of his renewed popularity, but plays so loose with the facts of his life that we end up knowing little more about him. Billy Dee Williams is a superb Joplin, as is Art Carney as his publisher, John Stark. But the movie either ignores or glosses over certain details, such as Joplin's longtime friendship and collaboration with Scott Hayden. Hayden is not even mentioned in the film, which prefers to focus on Joplin and the tragic, unsung musical genius Louis Chauvin, who Joplin barely knew. Chauvin in his prime would compose beautiful rags on the spot, never to be heard again, because he could not write them down. The movie implies they were friends from the earliest days, which they were not. They did collaborate on one piece, "Heliotrope Bouquet", when Chauvin was dying and no longer able to play--this the movie gets right.

It also touches on the growing animosity between Joplin and Stark, but this too is sugarcoated. The movie implies they reconciled, which in reality never happened.

Yet the movie is worth seeing if only for one thing--the wonderful, brooding music of a man for whom recognition was long overdue.

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