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That Ragtime Band (1913)

Professor Smelts the band leader gets into a romantic rivalry with one of his musicians over the affections of a pretty girl.


Mack Sennett

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Cast overview:
Ford Sterling ... Professor Smelts
Mabel Normand ... Mabel
Nick Cogley ... Trombonist
Raymond Hatton ... Trumpet Player
Alice Davenport Alice Davenport ... Mabel's Mother
Edgar Kennedy ... Stage Manager
Charles Avery ... Sousaphone Player
Rube Miller Rube Miller ... Acrobat
Laura Oakley ... Tall Fatima Sister


Band leader/clarinetist Ford Sterling is a romantic rival to trumpeter Raymond Hatton for the affections of pretty Mabel Normand. Sterling enters an amateur night contest at the local vaudeville house, where stage manager Edgar Kennedy gives the quick hook to most of the lame acts. Hatton positions himself in the audience across from Mabel and leads his fellow hecklers in taunting Sterling. Hatton's arsenal contains half-rotten fruits and vegetables which he throws at the haplessly helpless Sterling with amazing accuracy. Finally he heaves a pie that has managed to keep hidden under his jacket, and it glances off clarinetist. Attempting to return fire, Sterling errantly hits Mabel square in the chops with the pastry. The angry recipient of the first thrown pie the face in movie history enthusiastically joins the rest of the audience in throwing anything and everything at the band leader, who has lost the girl but gained the hook. Written by duke1029@aol.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Comedy







Release Date:

1 May 1913 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

That Rag Time Band See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Keystone Film Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This is often touted as the first film in which a pie was throne. It is first thrown by Raymond Hatton and it hits Ford Sterling. Later he picks it up and throws it, errantly hitting Mabel Normand, whom he was courting. See more »

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User Reviews

For Keystone completists only
24 March 2002 | by wmorrow59See all my reviews

Unless you happen to be an especially ardent Ford Sterling fan, able to enjoy his antics in absolutely anything -- and what are the odds of that? -- you may not find much to enjoy in That Ragtime Band, which is one of the earliest surviving Keystone comedies but far from the best. There are no gags as such, and no real laughs, just a lot of mugging, gesticulating, and food-fighting. The plot hinges on a romantic rivalry between band conductor Sterling and musician Nick Cogley over a pretty girl, Mabel Normand, but nothing much of interest develops. The pioneer filmmakers who produced this short comedy were still learning their craft, and it looks like the comedians were pretty much left to their own devices while the cameras cranked away. Ford Sterling mugs as vigorously as ever, looking for all the world like a Tex Avery cartoon character come to life, but Cogley, a rather dull figure who wears a big mustache, barely registers as a screen presence at all. Young Mabel is certainly pretty, but is relegated to reacting while the guys do the roughhousing.

Still, there are points of interest here: as the film was re-released over the years the title was changed repeatedly, reflecting the eclipse of ragtime music by early jazz. Even so, the instrumental components of Sterling's band suggest neither ragtime nor jazz but heavily brass-based Germanic oom-pah music. Indeed, the film appears to be set in a German- American neighborhood, for the signs in the rehearsal hall are all in German, yet the signs in the vaudeville theater are in English. When this film was released on May 1, 1913, the European War was still more than a year away; once it had begun, some of these interesting sociological details would be avoided in American movies. Naturally, filmmakers didn't want to offend nationalist sensibilities.

Another point of interest: there's a surprisingly risqué gag (more sordid than risqué, really) during the vaudeville sequence: two acts in a row which showcase women performers turn out to be 'fronts' -- advertising, to put it bluntly -- for local prostitutes. This is revealed when the billing cards bearing the acts' names are flipped over to reveal the women's addresses printed in big block letters, much to the outrage of the stage manager. This gag is probably the funniest moment in the entire film, which should tell you something about the level of quality here. No wonder Charlie Chaplin created such a sensation when he arrived at Keystone a few months later!

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