Ragtime (film)

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Ragtime film.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Michael Weller
Bo Goldman (uncredited)
E.L. Doctorow (novel)
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Miroslav Ondříček
Edited by Anne V. Coates
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • November 20, 1981 (1981-11-20)
Running time
155 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $11,099,118

Ragtime is a 1981 American drama film, directed by Miloš Forman, based on 1975 historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow. The action takes place in and around New York City, New Rochelle, and Atlantic City in the 1900s, including fictionalized references to actual people and events of the time. The film features the final film appearances of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien; early appearances, in small parts, by Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher and John Ratzenberger; and an uncredited appearance from Jack Nicholson. The music score was composed by Randy Newman. The film was nominated for eight Oscars.


In early 20th century New York, an unnamed family consisting of 'Father', 'Mother' and 'Younger Brother' reside in a comfortable suburban home in New Rochelle. Younger Brother pursues coquettish showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, whose wealthy husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, murders architect Stanford White in a jealous rage over a past affair with the young woman.

In the opening scene, an abandoned baby is found by Mother in her garden. She takes it into her home, and eventually the baby's mother, Sarah, comes to work for the family as a housekeeper. A ragtime musician, Coalhouse Walker Jr., has grown prosperous from his piano skill. It is later revealed that he is the baby's father and drives his new Ford Model T to the New Rochelle home, presenting himself to Father with a desire to marry Sarah.

Outside the firehouse, a crew of bigots, led by fire chief Willie Conklin, refuse to allow Walker's automobile to pass. After he leaves to find a policeman, Walker returns to find his car's seat soiled with horse manure. His protests end with the law placing him under arrest, rather than Conklin and the firemen.

Walker wishes to sue the city, but can find no lawyer willing to represent him. He decides to exact revenge by planting a bomb in the firehouse. He then does the same in the J. P. Morgan Library, assisted by disguised African-American followers that include Younger Brother. He demands that the Model T and fire chief, Conklin, be delivered to him or the library will be destroyed.

Booker T. Washington fails to persuade Walker to surrender, as does Father in a meeting at the library. Conklin is summoned by Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, who cites the fire chief's reputation as "a piece of slime" yet cannot submit to Walker's terrorist demands. Walker ultimately agrees to surrender if Waldo will permit his supporters to safely depart. Walker's supporters manage to escape, but as Walker surrenders, he is shot dead.



The film was shot on location in New York City, New Jersey and at Shepperton Studios, UK.

Awards and nominations[edit]

1981 Academy Awards (Oscars)[edit]

Ragtime was nominated for eight Academy Awards:[1]

1981 BAFTA Film Awards[edit]

  • Nominated – Best Original Song: Randy Newman for the song "One More Hour"

1981 Golden Globe Awards[edit]

1981 Grammy Awards[edit]

1981 Image Awards[edit]

1981 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[edit]

1981 Writers Guild of America Awards[edit]

  • Nominated – WGA Screen Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium: Michael Weller


One instrumental from the soundtrack, "Clef Club Number 2", was later used as the theme tune for ESPN's Inside Baseball weekly magazine program hosted by George Grande.


  1. ^ "NY Times: Ragtime". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 

External links[edit]