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Remembering 'Ragtime' (2004)

Video  -  Documentary | Short  -  16 November 2004 (USA)
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Memories from the making of the classic Milos Forman film "Ragtime".

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Memories from the making of the classic Milos Forman film "Ragtime".

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16 November 2004 (USA)  »

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This documentary is available on the DVD for 'Ragtime' (1981). See more »

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References Ragtime (1981) See more »

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Sweet memories from "Ragtime"
25 July 2013 | by (São Paulo, Brazil) – See all my reviews

With the best their memory can share after more than 20 years, the interviewed (director Milos Forman, actor Brad Dourif, producer Michael Hausman and art director Patrizia von Brandenstein) share some behind the scenes story and the process of making "Ragtime". E.L. Doctorow's acclaimed novel is practically unfilmable due to its many details, countless characters and a giant load of information, but somehow Hollywood attempted with projects dating back the late 1970's with Robert Altman about to direct a miniseries which failed to get out of paper, then producers offered to Forman who transformed into a movie, drastically reducing the many plots of the novel and sticking to the ones he found essential to present. The novel doesn't have a main plot, it's a chronicle of several real characters in the 1920's but Milos preferred to touch specifically on Coalhouse Jr.'s story because, as he explains in this documentary, he wanted to touch the issues of seclusion and prejudice similar to what he lived during the Communism regime in Prague.

All of the interviewed have good memories to share. Dourif talks about his amazing co-stars Mary Steenburgen and the late Howard E. Rollins Jr., who was a teacher prior to his film acting debut in "Ragtime" while Forman recalls James Cagney being heavily applauded on his first day of shooting, after more than 20 years of screen absence and this proved to be his final role. I find it interesting that Dino DeLaurentiis accepted Cagney as the big name from this movie. The only condition he imposed on the director was that the film needed to have a big name starring, and let's face it, how many moviegoers in the 1980's would remember who Cagney was? But somehow it all worked out and he made of Rhinelander Waldo a great character. And actually, the first big name Forman wanted was Jack Nicholson in the role Harry K. Thaw (played by Robert Joy), he accepted but later on his agent said he couldn't. But what the director forgot to mention is that Jack is in the movie on an uncredited cameo role during the pirate movie within the movie.

It's a very simple documentary but achieves some greatness with its real nostalgic moments that doesn't seem made up to impress viewers like many behind the scenes docs tend to be. 9/10


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