One More Sad Song: Ragtime

Ragtime was released in 1981 to great fanfare.  The 1975 novel was a bestseller and everyone wanted to see a big budget movie adaptation of the sprawling epic that takes the lives of one American family (father, mother, son and younger brother) and intertwines them with the lives of famous and fictional figures from American history, such as Booker T. Washington, Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit.  It was originally rumored to be Robert Altman’s next project but ended up in the able hands of Milos Forman, at the time a one-time Best Director Oscar winner for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (he went on to win one more for Amadeus in 1984).  It was expected to be a huge success and it was, to a degree.  The reviews were generally favorable and it received eight Oscar nominations, though none for director or picture.  It did respectable box office though nothing like the studios were hoping.  Then, it simply faded away.  No one talks much about Ragtime anymore, if they ever did, but it’s a movie worth revisiting.

Ragtime 01

I should begin by posting a spoiler alert.  To discuss Ragtime without fully exploring the plot is pointless as the whole story is one grand metaphor for America and though stories that present themselves as grand metaphors for America have a constant uphill battle against dull stoicism, Ragtime admirably succeeds.

When I first saw Ragtime back in 1981, I liked it but just barely.  It felt like two stories, haphazardly taped together with neither one really taking hold for me.  I felt the same way when I watched it again about twenty years later but then, watching it again this week, I felt completely different.  My problem had been going into Ragtime expecting a straightforward narrative in which characters are set up as central and then we, the audience, follow their story.   And while the story is told in a linear direction it is anything but straightforward.

The movie begins in 1906 with Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard Rollins Jr) playing piano in a movie house as the news of the day plays on the screen.   The news ends with a story of Harry Thaw (Robert Joy) furious that architect Stanford White (Norman Mailer) has used Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit (Elizabeth McGovern), as a model for a statue placed atop Madison Square Garden.  If you know you’re history, you know those names from the infamous “Trial of the Century” that occurred after Thaw walked into the Garden one evening in 1906 and shot White through the skull.

Indeed, the first third of the movie is focused on this story while we are slowly introduced to piano player Walker as well as the family, never named, comprised of father (James Olsen), mother (Mary Steenburgen) and their young son.  Also living with them is Steenburgen’s younger brother played by Brad Dourif.  The younger brother is smitten with Nesbit and follows her around wherever she goes.  When he’s at home he designs fireworks for the family company and is busy scribbling new designs at the dinner table nightly until the monotony is broken when the maid discovers a baby abandoned in their garden.   The father doesn’t want to take in a baby but the mother doesn’t see that they have a choice.  To make matters more awkward for the father, the family is white and the baby is black.  When the police get involved they begin rounding up women who might be the mother and find one hiding, Sarah (Debbie Allen), just up the street from the family’s house.  The police captain involved speaks condescendingly about her and the father agrees but the mother wants to take her and the baby in.  The father initially disagrees but the mother pulls him away for a talk that happens offscreen.  Whatever she said, it worked because Sarah and child move in.

Soon after, we discover that Coalhouse Walker is the father and wants to marry her but was waiting until he could get more respectable work, which he now has, playing in a band.  When Walker asks for Sarah’s hand in marriage, she accepts and he leaves the house in a state of bliss only to be brought back down to earth when he approaches a firehouse and is stopped by the firemen pulling an engine out in front of his car.  Once he stops they pull another one out behind him, blocking him in.  When they won’t move he leaves his car to get a police officer (Jeff Daniels) and the firemen, led by fire chief Willie Conklin (Kenneth McMillan), move his car and put excrement on the driver’s seat.  Walker insists they clean it up, which they won’t and, eventually, the police officer arrests Walker for causing a disturbance.

Things go downhill from there.

Walker gets together a group of men who shoot the firemen in a nighttime attack, bomb firehouses and eventually, take over the J. P. Morgan museum, mining it with explosives and demanding that the police deliver both his car, completely cleaned and refurbished, and Willie Conklin to him for Walker’s own brand of justice.

Ragtime 04

In the middle of all of this is another story, that of Tateh (Mandy Patinkin), an old world immigrant who cuts out silhouettes on the crowded streets of New York for money with his daughter attached to him by rope.  He meets up with Evelyn Nesbit and she agrees to sit for him while he does her silhouette but he has to leave when he discovers his wife is fooling around behind his back.  He makes his way out of New York and moves on to success making movies, with Evelyn Nesbit as his star.

And all of this ties together and all of the stories make sense, it’s just that instead of telling them together, Forman has chosen to tell them separately.  Kind of the reverse of the situation that arose with Tolkien’s The Two Towers.  In Tolkien’s book, the two stories, Frodo’s journey and the Battle of Helm’s Deep, are told back to back, in the movie version, they are interspersed.  In the book Ragtime, the stories are interspersed but in the movie, they are told back to back.  Admittedly, it’s harder to see the connecting threads that way but I think the movie works better as a result and though I have no doubt Altman could have mesmerized us with an interspersed story, I think Forman and the film deserve a lot more credit than they get.

In the end, the metaphorical meanings of the characters and situations mean less than the characters as real people do.  It is interesting to see the mother as the stand-in for women’s rights, as she clearly asserts herself over her decent but powerless husband, but more interesting to see her as a real character searching for meaning in a world where all her needs are attended to.  Eventually, she and Tateh, along with her son and the son of Coalhouse, exit the story as a kind of moveable model of the American melting pot while the father stares sheepishly out the window of his house, hiding behind the curtains for fear of being seen.  Elsewhere, Coalhouse Walker meets tragedy and Harry Thaw gets released (or is allowed to escape) from the insane asylum.  And in the end, the movie house keeps running the news of the day, presidents make whistle stops and Harry Houdini thrills onlookers as he escapes from a straitjacket suspended above the city.

The movie is filled with wonderful performances and historic appearances.  If ever there was a movie that connected old Hollywood and new Hollywood more completely with its cast, it’s this one.  James Cagney and Samuel Jackson in the same movie.  Pat O’Brien and Jeff Daniels.   Bessie Love and Fran Drescher.  Donald O’Connor and Elizabeth McGovern.  If you want to win at a Six Degrees game and eliminate 60 years of Hollywood time in one easy step, use this movie.   Scarlett Johansson to Jean Harlow?  Easy.  Samuel Jackson (The Avengers) to James Cagney (Public Enemy).  Done.

The best performance in the movie probably goes to Howard Rollins Jr, tragically gone at 46 from lymphoma.  He was deservedly nominated for Best Supporting Actor but everyone in the cast does a great job.  Robert Joy is perfectly off-kilter as Harry Thaw.  Elizabeth McGovern (also nominated) plays Nesbit as a none-too-bright model/dancer who nonetheless knows how to look out for her interests.   Brad Dourif is excellent as well and even Norman Mailer plays Stanford White like an old pro.  Of course, Stanford White was a blowhard so…  Moses Gunn is superb in his brief scene as Booker T. Washington, trying desperately to talk Walker off the ledge without success.

The cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek is stunning in many ways.  The film plays back and forth between crowded city streets and heavily ornamented interiors (it was 1906 after all) and if that doesn’t present a challenge to a director of photography to keep everything from becoming a garbled mess I don’t know what does.  It’s not only beautiful to behold, the action is focused perfectly, without confusion.

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But maybe the biggest treat of the movie is wonderful score by Randy Newman.  It travels from haunting to sinister to pure period and back without missing a beat.  The score punctuates the action but also serves to narrate the newsreels as Coalhouse Walker plays.  It has to function as a modern movie score but as period ambient music as well.  And it does.  Newman did a tremendous job here and should have won the Oscar.

And so Ragtime has many threads but they all connect, just like the characters in the story, and somehow the whole equals much more than all the individual parts.  That’s how America feels to many people and how Ragtime feels in its own patriotic portrait, pictured askance and with an eye towards the future.  It came and went with barely a tip of the straw hat but, perhaps, deserves another look.

0 Response One More Sad Song: Ragtime
Posted By Emgee : December 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Maybe a small consolation that it lost to On Golden Pond and Chariots of Fire. Anyone still watch those? Hello? Exactly!

Mention Ragtime and most people will respond (if at all) : “Ah, Cagney’s last picture!” He couldn’t resist reuniting with his old Irish Mafia buddy Pat O’Brien, and maybe slightly overshadowed the rest of the cast.

Personally i haven’t seen it; i must confess movies with a length of over 120 minutes better be pretty fantastic for me to watch until the end credits. Usually i find 90 minutes is plenty for most movies. Epic movies are a risky genre to undertake.

Posted By Emgee : December 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Maybe a small consolation that it lost to On Golden Pond and Chariots of Fire. Anyone still watch those? Hello? Exactly!

Mention Ragtime and most people will respond (if at all) : “Ah, Cagney’s last picture!” He couldn’t resist reuniting with his old Irish Mafia buddy Pat O’Brien, and maybe slightly overshadowed the rest of the cast.

Personally i haven’t seen it; i must confess movies with a length of over 120 minutes better be pretty fantastic for me to watch until the end credits. Usually i find 90 minutes is plenty for most movies. Epic movies are a risky genre to undertake.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:00 pm

Risky indeed. I think it’s worth the time but if long movies aren’t your thing, it probably won’t feel much different to you than any other long movie you don’t feel like watching.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:00 pm

Risky indeed. I think it’s worth the time but if long movies aren’t your thing, it probably won’t feel much different to you than any other long movie you don’t feel like watching.

Posted By JackFavell : December 12, 2012 5:08 pm

THANK YOU!!!!

Ragtime was one of my favorite movies back when it came out, and I always felt that it got short shrift over the years. I’ve mentioned it to people and the invariable response is, “What’s that?” You’d think that an academy award nominated movie, with such an epic but personal storyline, with a director who won two of the ‘prestigious’ awards would be better known.

Howard Rollins was a brilliant actor, it’s very sad that he died so young. I always hoped he would have another role that showcased his enormous talent.

Posted By JackFavell : December 12, 2012 5:08 pm

THANK YOU!!!!

Ragtime was one of my favorite movies back when it came out, and I always felt that it got short shrift over the years. I’ve mentioned it to people and the invariable response is, “What’s that?” You’d think that an academy award nominated movie, with such an epic but personal storyline, with a director who won two of the ‘prestigious’ awards would be better known.

Howard Rollins was a brilliant actor, it’s very sad that he died so young. I always hoped he would have another role that showcased his enormous talent.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:10 pm

Jack, glad to see another fan of the movie. As I said in the piece, I like it more each time I see it and this last viewing I felt I finally connected to it fully. More people should know about it. And Howard Rollins dying so young is incredibly sad. He was a fantastic actor.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:10 pm

Jack, glad to see another fan of the movie. As I said in the piece, I like it more each time I see it and this last viewing I felt I finally connected to it fully. More people should know about it. And Howard Rollins dying so young is incredibly sad. He was a fantastic actor.

Posted By Emgee : December 12, 2012 5:18 pm

Some long movies ( Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, Leone’s westerns) are among my favorites of all time,

But usually i think directors of epics overreach themself and , since the story they chose to tell fascinates them,figure the audience is prepared to stick with it. It ain’t always so.

Posted By Emgee : December 12, 2012 5:18 pm

Some long movies ( Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, Leone’s westerns) are among my favorites of all time,

But usually i think directors of epics overreach themself and , since the story they chose to tell fascinates them,figure the audience is prepared to stick with it. It ain’t always so.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Emgee, that’s certainly the case with many I’ve seen but Ragtime kept my interest. A part of it, I think, is that it does shift from one set of characters and story to another instead of one long story so it feels like an anthology of stories in one setting rather than a long epic.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Emgee, that’s certainly the case with many I’ve seen but Ragtime kept my interest. A part of it, I think, is that it does shift from one set of characters and story to another instead of one long story so it feels like an anthology of stories in one setting rather than a long epic.

Posted By Kingrat : December 12, 2012 6:38 pm

Greg, here’s another case where the film improved on the novel in some aspects, although E.L. Doctorow is a talented writer. In the book, the younger brother is the Politically Correct People’s Hero (and every bit as uninteresting as that sounds), but in the movie we have the goofy and wonderful Brad Dourif, who could never be a symbol for anything.

RAGTIME is certainly worth seeing.

Posted By Kingrat : December 12, 2012 6:38 pm

Greg, here’s another case where the film improved on the novel in some aspects, although E.L. Doctorow is a talented writer. In the book, the younger brother is the Politically Correct People’s Hero (and every bit as uninteresting as that sounds), but in the movie we have the goofy and wonderful Brad Dourif, who could never be a symbol for anything.

RAGTIME is certainly worth seeing.

Posted By Dane : December 12, 2012 8:04 pm

I saw the play 12 years ago and it was very well done; tried reading the book afterward but lost interest. You’ve convinced me I need to see the movie. Off to check Netflix!

Posted By Dane : December 12, 2012 8:04 pm

I saw the play 12 years ago and it was very well done; tried reading the book afterward but lost interest. You’ve convinced me I need to see the movie. Off to check Netflix!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 8:10 pm

Dane, I think you’ll like it. It’s not on Netflix currently but you can stream it good quality off of Amazon. If you have a Roku hookup, it’s DVD quality on your tv. Hopefully, somebody will release a deluxe collector’s DVD of it someday.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 8:10 pm

Dane, I think you’ll like it. It’s not on Netflix currently but you can stream it good quality off of Amazon. If you have a Roku hookup, it’s DVD quality on your tv. Hopefully, somebody will release a deluxe collector’s DVD of it someday.

Posted By Richard B : December 12, 2012 9:46 pm

Loved Robert Joy; shame his career never got the boost you’d expect after this and “Atlantic City” were released back-to-back.

Posted By Richard B : December 12, 2012 9:46 pm

Loved Robert Joy; shame his career never got the boost you’d expect after this and “Atlantic City” were released back-to-back.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 9:50 pm

Richard – Robert Joy is a great actor and Atlantic City is one of my favorite movies ever. He may never have had a star-making career turn but his career has never suffered. He’s been all over tv for thirty years now. His list of credits on IMDB is a mile long.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 12, 2012 9:50 pm

Richard – Robert Joy is a great actor and Atlantic City is one of my favorite movies ever. He may never have had a star-making career turn but his career has never suffered. He’s been all over tv for thirty years now. His list of credits on IMDB is a mile long.

Posted By Susan Doll : December 12, 2012 9:57 pm

I taught art history this semester and McKim, Meade, and White were mentioned in the chapter on revivalist architecture. I couldn’t resist telling the story of White and Nesbit, just like I spiced up the rest of the semester with as sort of “scandals behind the masters” approach to art history.

My only complaint about the film was that Eliz. McGovern wasn’t quite up to playing Nesbit; she just wasn’t down and dirty enough.

Posted By Susan Doll : December 12, 2012 9:57 pm

I taught art history this semester and McKim, Meade, and White were mentioned in the chapter on revivalist architecture. I couldn’t resist telling the story of White and Nesbit, just like I spiced up the rest of the semester with as sort of “scandals behind the masters” approach to art history.

My only complaint about the film was that Eliz. McGovern wasn’t quite up to playing Nesbit; she just wasn’t down and dirty enough.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 12:18 am

McGovern played her as a kind of simple minded innocent which doesn’t seem quite right. Still, she was good in how she did that but it doesn’t fit Nesbit.

So glad to see that you and several others (here and on Facebook) are fans of the film. It’s nice to be in such good company.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 12:18 am

McGovern played her as a kind of simple minded innocent which doesn’t seem quite right. Still, she was good in how she did that but it doesn’t fit Nesbit.

So glad to see that you and several others (here and on Facebook) are fans of the film. It’s nice to be in such good company.

Posted By bill : December 13, 2012 12:29 am

Altman, with his skill at handling muliple character projects, would’ve been a more intersesting choice. He lost out because his previous film for DeLaurentiis, Buffalo Bill, flopped. Doctorow has a cameo in Buffalo Bill.

Posted By bill : December 13, 2012 12:29 am

Altman, with his skill at handling muliple character projects, would’ve been a more intersesting choice. He lost out because his previous film for DeLaurentiis, Buffalo Bill, flopped. Doctorow has a cameo in Buffalo Bill.

Posted By Doug : December 13, 2012 1:40 am

Ragtime came out in my ‘pre-movie’ days, living in a small town which barely had a movie theater, years before I even had a VCR.
Of course I knew of “Ragtime”, but the world was quite different -we got most of our movie knowledge from watching the Oscars telecast-I can’t recall if Siskel and Ebert had been on PBS yet. That was about it.
Greg, I’m watching LOTR right now, and right in the middle of “The Two Towers” we find? Brad Dourif, deleting a few more degrees of separation in Hollywood.
My favorite part of “The Two Towers” is when Merry and Pippin are being carried by the Ents to the Battle of Helm’s Deep and Pippin shouts, “Run Forest! Run!”

Posted By Doug : December 13, 2012 1:40 am

Ragtime came out in my ‘pre-movie’ days, living in a small town which barely had a movie theater, years before I even had a VCR.
Of course I knew of “Ragtime”, but the world was quite different -we got most of our movie knowledge from watching the Oscars telecast-I can’t recall if Siskel and Ebert had been on PBS yet. That was about it.
Greg, I’m watching LOTR right now, and right in the middle of “The Two Towers” we find? Brad Dourif, deleting a few more degrees of separation in Hollywood.
My favorite part of “The Two Towers” is when Merry and Pippin are being carried by the Ents to the Battle of Helm’s Deep and Pippin shouts, “Run Forest! Run!”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:39 am

Kingrat – Brad Dourif is such a good actor that I wish he was used more. I realize he has an oddball style and demeanor but that just makes him twice as interesting as most other actors out there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:39 am

Kingrat – Brad Dourif is such a good actor that I wish he was used more. I realize he has an oddball style and demeanor but that just makes him twice as interesting as most other actors out there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:40 am

Bill – Like I say in the piece, I’m sure Altman would have mesmerized but I still love what Forman did. It would be nice to have seen two versions of the movie, one by each.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:40 am

Bill – Like I say in the piece, I’m sure Altman would have mesmerized but I still love what Forman did. It would be nice to have seen two versions of the movie, one by each.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:43 am

Doug, I thought of Brad Dourif in The Two Towers when I wrote that but didn’t bring it up although I should have in the connection paragraph later. Off topic of Ragtime but I’m watching the LOTR trilogy again myself. My son loved it so much I had to take him to it at least three times for each one in the theatre and now, finally, ten years later I feel like watching them again. And I still like them after so many forced viewings.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 13, 2012 8:43 am

Doug, I thought of Brad Dourif in The Two Towers when I wrote that but didn’t bring it up although I should have in the connection paragraph later. Off topic of Ragtime but I’m watching the LOTR trilogy again myself. My son loved it so much I had to take him to it at least three times for each one in the theatre and now, finally, ten years later I feel like watching them again. And I still like them after so many forced viewings.

Posted By Jenni : December 13, 2012 9:55 am

I tried to read Ragtime in highschool and just couldn’t get into it. I love history, perhaps it was E.L. Doctorow’s writing style that I just couldn’t conquer? Anyhow, since I didn’t like the book, I didn’t see the movie. This makes me ask the old question when a film is based on a book, which is better, the movie or the book?

Posted By Jenni : December 13, 2012 9:55 am

I tried to read Ragtime in highschool and just couldn’t get into it. I love history, perhaps it was E.L. Doctorow’s writing style that I just couldn’t conquer? Anyhow, since I didn’t like the book, I didn’t see the movie. This makes me ask the old question when a film is based on a book, which is better, the movie or the book?

Posted By Judy : December 14, 2012 5:40 pm

I also thought this was a good film, but my memories of it have faded. I mainly remember Cagney giving one last great turn – and somehow being absolutely terrifying while appearing to be a sweet old man drinking a cup of tea. Can’t forget his voice saying: “Well, people tell me you’re a worthless piece of slime”.

Posted By Judy : December 14, 2012 5:40 pm

I also thought this was a good film, but my memories of it have faded. I mainly remember Cagney giving one last great turn – and somehow being absolutely terrifying while appearing to be a sweet old man drinking a cup of tea. Can’t forget his voice saying: “Well, people tell me you’re a worthless piece of slime”.

Posted By Jane H : December 15, 2012 10:14 pm

Haven’t had the opportunity to see the film since it came out, but I often listen to Newman’s beautiful score. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

Posted By Jane H : December 15, 2012 10:14 pm

Haven’t had the opportunity to see the film since it came out, but I often listen to Newman’s beautiful score. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

Posted By Wayne : December 18, 2012 6:20 pm

I love this movie. It was great to visit the site and see this review. I was in high school when this movie came out and I went back to see it three times while it was still in the theater. I don’t know…there was something transporting about the film to me. The atmosphere, the music, the performances all went such a long way to creating a world that fascinated me. I also got pulled into the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr. Thanks for your thoughtful review!

Posted By Wayne : December 18, 2012 6:20 pm

I love this movie. It was great to visit the site and see this review. I was in high school when this movie came out and I went back to see it three times while it was still in the theater. I don’t know…there was something transporting about the film to me. The atmosphere, the music, the performances all went such a long way to creating a world that fascinated me. I also got pulled into the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr. Thanks for your thoughtful review!

Posted By swac44 : January 12, 2013 6:22 pm

I’ve been saving the notification for this Morlocks post in my inbox since I’d been planning to watch Ragtime for ages, and figured once I had a free afternoon I’d finally get around to it. This afternoon proved to be the day, and I quite enjoyed it, a fine evocation of the period and a cast I could marvel at from start to finish (the actors’ names don’t appear until the end, so I was constantly surprised at who appeared, although I knew Cagney was in the film, I didn’t expect O’Brien or O’Connor, for example). I did mistakenly think that was Ed Asner as White for a while, but eventually I figured it out.

The timing was a bit unfortunate, as it was hard to watch Coalhouse’s assault on the firemen without thinking of recent events near Rochester, NY, but it didn’t wreck my viewing completely. The length wasn’t an issue either, the first third of the film zoomed right by for me, and the tension of the final stand-off had me hooked as well. Plus I’ve always enjoyed Brad Dourif’s work, and I can’t believe I’ve missed this particular turn until now. I will have to watch Wise Blood again as penance.

Those with the DVD get to watch a 10-minute deleted scene (in black and white rushes form), an encounter between Nesbit and anarchist Emma Goldman that’s interesting, but a bit forced. Goldman’s played by Mariclare Costello, probably best known for a role on The Waltons and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, and makes me wish Goldman’s story would get a more in-depth treatment some day.

IMDb’s trivia page for Ragtime has lots of interesting factoids, including info on Jack Nicholson’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. Worth checking out!

Posted By swac44 : January 12, 2013 6:22 pm

I’ve been saving the notification for this Morlocks post in my inbox since I’d been planning to watch Ragtime for ages, and figured once I had a free afternoon I’d finally get around to it. This afternoon proved to be the day, and I quite enjoyed it, a fine evocation of the period and a cast I could marvel at from start to finish (the actors’ names don’t appear until the end, so I was constantly surprised at who appeared, although I knew Cagney was in the film, I didn’t expect O’Brien or O’Connor, for example). I did mistakenly think that was Ed Asner as White for a while, but eventually I figured it out.

The timing was a bit unfortunate, as it was hard to watch Coalhouse’s assault on the firemen without thinking of recent events near Rochester, NY, but it didn’t wreck my viewing completely. The length wasn’t an issue either, the first third of the film zoomed right by for me, and the tension of the final stand-off had me hooked as well. Plus I’ve always enjoyed Brad Dourif’s work, and I can’t believe I’ve missed this particular turn until now. I will have to watch Wise Blood again as penance.

Those with the DVD get to watch a 10-minute deleted scene (in black and white rushes form), an encounter between Nesbit and anarchist Emma Goldman that’s interesting, but a bit forced. Goldman’s played by Mariclare Costello, probably best known for a role on The Waltons and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, and makes me wish Goldman’s story would get a more in-depth treatment some day.

IMDb’s trivia page for Ragtime has lots of interesting factoids, including info on Jack Nicholson’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. Worth checking out!

Posted By Jack Favell : January 13, 2013 2:36 pm

Emma Goldman has really gotten the shaft as far as movies are concerned. She’s left almost completely out of RAGTIME, and only shows up around the edges in REDS. There is a documentary from PBS that is available on youtube, called something like A VERY DANGEROUS WOMAN.

It would be nice to see a full scale biopic…but I doubt with Hollywood the way it is now that that will happen anytime soon.

Posted By Jack Favell : January 13, 2013 2:36 pm

Emma Goldman has really gotten the shaft as far as movies are concerned. She’s left almost completely out of RAGTIME, and only shows up around the edges in REDS. There is a documentary from PBS that is available on youtube, called something like A VERY DANGEROUS WOMAN.

It would be nice to see a full scale biopic…but I doubt with Hollywood the way it is now that that will happen anytime soon.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 14, 2013 9:32 pm

swac, glad you liked it. Like you, I knew about Cagney but had no recollection of Pat O’Brien or Donald O’Connor which is why I say in my piece, it’s the ultimate Hollywood Connection game movie. I mean you’ve got actors from the thirties with actors still popular today, like Samuel Jackson. It’s amazing, really.

Jack is hard to recognize as the pirate actor until he opens his mouth wide with his cutlass in the air.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 14, 2013 9:32 pm

swac, glad you liked it. Like you, I knew about Cagney but had no recollection of Pat O’Brien or Donald O’Connor which is why I say in my piece, it’s the ultimate Hollywood Connection game movie. I mean you’ve got actors from the thirties with actors still popular today, like Samuel Jackson. It’s amazing, really.

Jack is hard to recognize as the pirate actor until he opens his mouth wide with his cutlass in the air.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 14, 2013 9:33 pm

Jack, I’d love to see a good biopic of Emma Goldman and I’m going to check out that documentary on her. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 14, 2013 9:33 pm

Jack, I’d love to see a good biopic of Emma Goldman and I’m going to check out that documentary on her. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted By swac44 : January 15, 2013 7:10 am

Ragtime is great for connecting the past to the present. One film that doesn’t have so many current faces in it, but has one of the looniest cast lists of showbiz old-timers, is Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). Still haven’t seen it, but with a cast like that, I really need to get around to it one of these days.

Posted By swac44 : January 15, 2013 7:10 am

Ragtime is great for connecting the past to the present. One film that doesn’t have so many current faces in it, but has one of the looniest cast lists of showbiz old-timers, is Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). Still haven’t seen it, but with a cast like that, I really need to get around to it one of these days.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 15, 2013 9:29 am

I saw that years ago on cable. Can’t remember a thing about it. Now I want to see it again.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : January 15, 2013 9:29 am

I saw that years ago on cable. Can’t remember a thing about it. Now I want to see it again.

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