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Ragtime (1981)

PG | | Drama | 25 December 1981 (USA)
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  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$151,351, 22 November 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz facilitated the filmmakers' use of the Mount Kisco (NY) Mutual Fire Company's station in the filming of the fire house sequences. Mankiewicz was a local resident. See more »


During the 11th Street scene when Mandy Patinkin learns of his wife's infidelity, the same mustachioed actor with a bowler hat, vest, and cigar walks past him twice in a period of a couple of seconds. See more »


P.C. O'Donnell: Nobody's intimidating me, Mister. You just don't know what you're getting yourself into, and I'm trying to keep your nose clean. Now, would you be a good boy and just get along.?
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: I want my car cleaned!
P.C. O'Donnell: Clean it then, damn you! Clean it and go!
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: I want the man who did it to clean it!
P.C. O'Donnell: All right, all right, let me pit it this way. I can arrest you for blocking a public service exit, for creating a public nuisance, and about ten other things I ain't gonna mention. Now, am I making myself clear?
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: Yes.
P.C. O'Donnell:
Coalhouse Walker Jr.:
P.C. O'Donnell:
Coalhouse Walker Jr.:
See more »


Featured in James Cagney: That Yankee Doodle Dandy (1981) See more »


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

A Bit Of a Mess.
11 October 2013 | by See all my reviews

Ragtime is a movie that has obvious aspirations to the epic, but never quite makes it. Multiple plot lines go nowhere, only to be neatly resurrected at some random time in the future, just to remind us that everything is 'linked'. Characters go off on random tangents for no apparent reason, things just happen, you get the idea. The central subplot is actually reasonably compelling, but even then it suffers from being slightly haphazard, with all but the very central characters basically behaving in a completely random manner. All this being said, Ragtime is not a bad movie per se, it's sumptuously shot and the acting is mostly pretty good, once the main subplot gets moving, it's pretty engaging.

Ragtime is based on the book of the same name, I didn't know this when I was watching the movie, but it's pretty obvious that the script has suffered from attempting to compress the book, even then, the movie still weighs in at a hefty two and a half hours, one can't help feeling that they should have just concentrated on developing the main story properly, instead of trying to throw in the kitchen sink.

In conclusion: Well done, a little bit of a mess, probably worth a go if you're looking for a period drama.

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