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Ragtime (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  8 January 1982 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,227 users   Metascore: 57/100
Reviews: 51 user | 29 critic | 8 from

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), 1 more credit »
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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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 January 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bir Zamanlar  »

Box Office


SEK 3,022,477 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


James Cagney was wheelchair-bound at the time of shooting. Most scenes show him sitting; a stand-in was used for his remaining scenes showing him on his feet (and were shot from the back to obscure the stand-in's face). See more »


The newsreel lists an assassination attempt against President Theodore Roosevelt, presumably in 1904 when he was the incumbent running for a full term. The attempt on his life actually occurred in 1912 when, as a former president, he ran for the office again as the candidate of The Progressive Party. See more »


Rheinlander Waldo: [refering to the anarchists in the library] Well, Mr. Elliot, why don't you go in and have a word with them?
Vernon Elliott: I beg your pardon?
Rheinlander Waldo: Just explain the value of the library, see what they want, that sort of thing.
Vernon Elliott: That hardly seems like the appropriate response, Mr. Waldo, and if you're making a joke at my expense, I assure you there's nothing amusing about my responsibilities as the curator of Mr. Morgan's library.
Rheinlander Waldo: Mr. Elliot, as long as those guys are in there, you're not curator of anything!
See more »


Referenced in Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher (2002) 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.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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