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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Milos Forman originally wanted E.L. Doctorow to collaborate on the screenplay, but the novelist thought that a feature film could not do justice to his epic novel and believed that it should be done as a ten-part TV miniseries. Doctorow did not participate in the development of the screenplay. See more »
While negotiating with Coalhouse Walker Jr., the earpiece hook on the phone hangs in the off position while Conklin is talking. See more »
I never saw this film until 2005 and after I had become a big James Cagney fan and wanted to see the movies of his I had missed. Thus, I had to check this out, especially since it was his first film he had made in over 20 years.
En route to getting a glimpse at the 80-year-old star, I found out (1) he wasn't on screen until 45 minutes were left in this 155-minute movie; (2) his absence didn't upset me that much because I was absorbed in this interesting story (plus, to be fair, I was told in advance he didn't appear until the last part!), (3) the sets, clothing, etc. of this "period piece" were fantastic to view.
Anyway, in my opinion, the star of the film was a guy who hardly got any billing: James Olson. He is the key figure in this story and very interesting to watch. Actually, just about everyone is interesting which makes for good storytelling. Nonetheless, Olson's fine performance is unfairly overlooked.
Howard Rollins was good as the black "victim" of the profane slob Kenneth McMillian and Elizabeth McGovern certainly kept ones attention although I wasn't quite sure how her character tied into the story.
By the way, to rate this movie "PG" is ludicrous since McGovern is seen in a 3- to-4-minute scene casually talking away with bare breasts for all to see. And - contrary to a popular rumor - nothing of her was cut out of the DVD.
Meanwhile, Cagney showed he hadn't forgotten how to act. It was a pleasure to see him again, just a few years before he would pass away. It's a cliché, but I doubt if anyone was in his class as an actor and a dancer, a tough guy or a comedian. He was the best and went out in style here, too, although he did do one last made-for-TV film a short time after this.
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