7.3/10
8,638
62 user 43 critic

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:

Young, beautiful, passionate, and scandalous. She was America in the time of "Ragtime." See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Of the movie's two-hour thirty-five-minute running time, 49 minutes feature music. The soundtrack album includes 13 minutes of music unheard in the movie. That implies that Randy Newman wrote over an hour's worth of music for the movie, only to have it cut down. One song, "Change Your Way", was supposed to be sung by Scatman Crothers for the opening credits, but the scene was never shot. The song can be heard on the soundtrack album, sung by Newman. The "Denouement" cue clocks on the soundtrack at five minutes and 43 seconds. Only one minute and 43 seconds ended up in the final cut. See more »

Goofs

When Coalhouse Walker, Jr. strikes keys on the piano of the "family's" house, he announces that the piano is terribly out of tune, and admonishes Father to take better care of the instrument. Not only is there nothing to indicate that the piano is out of tune (the struck notes suggest that the piano is in tune), but moments later, Coalhouse plays a Chopin waltz on the same piano, it is in perfect tune. See more »

Quotes

Coalhouse Walker Jr.: I read music so good, white folks think I'm fakin' it.
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Connections

Referenced in Downton Abbey: Episode #4.6 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

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

User Reviews

A Flawed Beauty Is Nonetheless A Beauty
2 February 2002 | by bigpurplebearSee all my reviews

I finished reading Doctorow's novel just before it was announced that production had started on the movie. I remember thinking, "How the hell do you make a movie of a book where the central characters are named 'Mother,' 'Father,' and 'Mother's Younger Brother?'"

Milos Forman showed how: In a word, beautifully.

And "Ragtime" is beautiful, stunning in its recreation of early 1900s New York, utilizing a script which somehow ties together the central events and their effects on its main characters as well as one of the finest, most haunting soundtracks (Randy Newman, who went so far as to compose several original 'ragtime' numbers) in the past twenty years, topped off with a first-rate cast.

James Cagney was the big news, of course, and deservedly so: Emerging from twenty years of retirement, he showed that he'd not only not lost anything but had added to his expertise. Add Mary Steenburgen, Mandy Patinkin, James Olsen, Howard Rollins, Keith McMillan and even Elizabeth McGovern (each of them perfectly cast), to name but a few, and you see where Forman wasn't missing a bet.

"Ragtime" suffers, ultimately, due to lapses in editing -- the most grievous lapse the cutting of a short scene which explains Commissioner Waldo's motivation behind the action he ultimately takes with Coalhouse Walker. Some cuts are always necessarily (especially in a movie as sprawling as this), yet that cut -- and several others -- flaw this beauty of a film.

But not fatally. Not at all. More than twenty years later, "Ragtime" is still gorgeous.


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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
See more on IMDbPro »

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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