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


The passion, the violence, the birth of America's Gilded Age. See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bir Zamanlar  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film reunited James Cagney (coming out of a 20-year retirement following One, Two, Three (1961)) with Pat O'Brien, his frequent co-star from the 1930s and 1940s. It was the last theatrical film for both of them. 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 »


Coalhouse Walker Jr.: [praying] Lord, I'd hoped I'd have the courage to know what I should do now. You must see how sick at heart I've been... and how I've performed this thing with little appetite.
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: I'd hoped... you'd reveal to me along the way why you put such a rage in my heart.
[a brief pause]
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: Tell me what to do now!
[another beat]
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: Please.
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: God, tell me what to do.
See more »


Featured in O.J.: Made in America (2016) See more »


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

A Wonderful Panel of Racism, Intolerance, Violence, Greed and Hypocrisy, Showing the Formation of the American Society
22 January 2004 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, many dramas cross in a wonderful panel, showing the formation of the American society. Evelyn Nesbit Thaw (Elizabeth McGovern) is the wife of a millionaire, and pivot of a crime committed by her jealous husband. Her mother-in-law is a hypocrite old lady, who convinces Evelyn to lie in court for money, to avoid her son to go to the electric chair. Evelyn commits perjury, but the mother-in-law does not pay her the promised amount. Mary Steenburgen is a correct woman, having a very moralist husband. Her brother (Brad Dourif) is honest and idealist. The family hires Sarah, a black and single mother, with her baby. The father is the pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), who progresses in his career and comes back to Sarah, proposing her to get married with him. An incident with a group of racists makes him fighting for justice in a racist society. Rheinlander Waldo (James Cagney) is the chief of police, who is involved in the incident. This movie is another wonderful film of Milos Forman. Amazing the quantity of marvelous movies made by this fantastic director. The reconstitution of the period is magnificent. The cast is stunning. Elizabeth McGovern looks like a doll wearing those costumes. Her nude scene is also great. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): `Na Época do Ragtime' (`In the Age of the Ragtime')

22 of 34 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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