A young black pianist becomes embroiled in the lives of an upper-class white family set among the racial tensions, infidelity, violence, and other nostalgic events in early 1900s New York City.



(based on the novel by), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Willie Conklin
Houdini (as Jeff Demunn)


The story runs in the 1910's New York. Coalhouse Walker Jr. is a black piano player. He has won fame and fortune playing with a jazz band. Some white men do not like this situation, and one day they assault him and spoil his brand new car. Walker tries by all means to get justice, without an answer... Written by Michel Rudoy <mdrc@hp9000a1.uam.mx>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Young, beautiful, passionate, and scandalous. She was America in the time of "Ragtime." See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bir Zamanlar  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Cagney had been advised by his doctors and caregivers that making a film at this point in his life was very important for his health. The actor never flew, so he and his wife took an ocean liner to London, where his scenes were filmed. It is a tribute to his professionalism that despite his numerous infirmities, he generously stayed on set during his fellow actors' closeups to give them line readings. See more »


When Mandy Patinkin's character chases his wife's lover outside, the naked lover is seen pulling up his pants and we see a tan line of bikini briefs, which were not worn in that era. See more »


Younger Brother: I design fireworks. That's my job.
[the black anarchists laugh in derision]
Younger Brother: . I can make bombs.
[They stop laughing and take him seriously]
See more »


Referenced in Le bourreau des coeurs (1983) See more »


Words & Music by Randy Newman
Sung by Jennifer Warnes
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User Reviews

It doesn't do the impossible, but so what?
16 September 2004 | by (Minnesota) – See all my reviews

A short commentary: Having read through a few of the comments here, I note that there are several which express disappointment that the movie didn't do the book justice. Personally, having read the book some time after seeing the movie, I can understand their point, but realistically it's the type of book which would be nearly be impossible to do justice to, as there are so many broad interwoven threads in the book that it would require at least a 6 hour movie to even scratch the surface, and even then, putting it all together into a singular coherent whole which would hold the viewer's interest for that long would be quite a mean feat indeed. So instead of looking at it as an attempt to fully capture the book, it might be best to simply appreciate it for what it is, rather than what it isn't. And I believe that on its own terms it succeeds admirably, and remains one of my favorite movies of all time.

Another way of looking at this, as an introduction to the book, rather than vice versa it has some value on those terms. Perhaps if I hadn't seen the movie I might never have happened upon the book, and never known what I'd missed.

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