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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.

Director:

Milos Forman

Writers:

E.L. Doctorow (based on the novel by), Michael Weller (screenplay)
Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Cagney ... New York Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo
Brad Dourif ... Younger Brother
Moses Gunn ... Booker T. Washington
Elizabeth McGovern ... Evelyn Nesbit
Kenneth McMillan ... Willie Conklin
Pat O'Brien ... Delphin
Donald O'Connor ... Evelyn's Dance Instructor
James Olson ... Father
Mandy Patinkin ... Tateh
Howard E. Rollins Jr. ... Coalhouse Walker Jr.
Mary Steenburgen ... Mother
Debbie Allen ... Sarah
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Houdini (as Jeff Demunn)
Robert Joy ... Henry Thaw
Norman Mailer ... Stanford White
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Mary Steenburgen was pregnant during filming. Her turn-of-the-century clothes concealed it. See more »

Goofs

One pre-WWI newspaper headline refers to Vice-President Charles Curtis. Curtis was Vice President under Herbert Hoover, who was elected in 1928. See more »

Quotes

[Coalhouse has just learned that his friends have safely escaped]
Father: [trepidatiously] Well, shouldn't we... uh... tell them... that we're... we're coming?
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: [calmly] Yeah. You go on ahead. Tell 'em I'll be right out.
Father: [hesitates] Well...
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: Just go on. I'll be with you.
Father: [still hesitates] Don't...?
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: [firmly] Go.
Father: [stammering] Don't you think it would be... a better idea if we...?
Coalhouse Walker Jr.: [exploding] GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE! Don't you understand ANYTHING, white man?
Father: [terrified, rushes out of the library]
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Connections

Featured in Sneak Previews: The Best of 1981 (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

One More Hour
(1981)
Words & Music by Randy Newman
Sung by Jennifer Warnes
See more »

User Reviews

 
Great To See Cagney But Don't Overlook Olson
10 November 2005 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ragtime See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$151,351, 22 November 1981

Gross USA:

$14,920,781

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$14,920,781
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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