7.3/10
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55 user 38 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)

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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bir Zamanlar See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$151,351, 22 November 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$21,015,710
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film reunited James Cagney, coming out of a twenty-year retirement, with Pat O'Brien, his frequent co-star from the 1930s and 1940s. It was the last theatrical film for both of them. See more »

Goofs

When Mandy Patinkin's character chases his wife's lover outside, the naked lover pulls up his pants. A tan line from bikini briefs is visible. Bikini briefs weren't worn in that era. See more »

Quotes

Rheinlander Waldo: That library over there is worth millions and people keep telling me you're a piece of slime.
See more »


Soundtracks

ONE MORE HOUR
(1981)
Words & Music by Randy Newman
Sung by Jennifer Warnes
See more »

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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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