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Ragtime (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  8 January 1982 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,234 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


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was 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
See  »

Did You Know?


The silhouettist played by Mandy Patinkin and his wife (played by Fran Drescher) are listed in the credits with the character names 'Tateh' and 'Mameh'. These are not meant to be interpreted as their actual names, but are rather the Yiddish words for 'father' and 'mother', respectively. See more »


In the scene where Sarah is in the back of the crowd at the train station, trying to listen to Vice President Fairbanks, a small 50-star American flag can be seen to the right of her. The 50-star flag was not official until 4 July 1960. See more »


Rheinlander Waldo: Where is J. P. Morgan?
Vernon Elliott: Oh, he's on an expedition down the Nile... in Egypt.
Rheinlander Waldo: Hmmm... Lucky him!
[Looks at the Captain]
Police Captain #1: Yes, sir!
Rheinlander Waldo: And contact some colored big shots to talk to us in case we need to negotiate.
Police Captain #1: Very good, sir. Anything else?
Rheinlander Waldo: Yeah, he said something about a car and a fire chief.
Police Captain #1: Conklin. Willie Conklin.
Rheinlander Waldo: Get him. I want to meet him.
See more »


Featured in Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream (1998) See more »


Words & Music by Randy Newman
Sung by Jennifer Warnes
See more »

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User Reviews

The book is definitely better .........
1 August 2004 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

'Ragtime' by E.L. Doctorow was one of those important ground breaking books.

It deserved a better translation to film. Having read the book numerous times over the years, what struck me about the film was that it was largely undecipherable if you had not first read the book. The book is a rich tapestry of American society, its values, behaviour and so on of the day. The film focuses on 2 sub-plots only - Nesbit Thaw and Coalhouse Walker Jr. The character - mother's Younger Brother was largely sacrificed - this introverted complex character - was portrayed only as Nesbit-Thaw's lover and a terrorist - with no development of how he became to be these. The relationship between Father and Mother too was badly handled, especially the Mother's leaving with the Russian film maker (silhouette artist).

The film simply does not even begin to scratch this surface. The film is a major disappointment.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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