Genre Guesstimation – Ragtime (1981)

The idea behind this feature (Genre Guesstimation) is for me to watch a bunch of new movies (or ones that I haven’t seen many times) from the chosen monthly GG genre in order to expand my knowledge of movies within that particular genre.

This month’s Genre has been chosen by Debbie of Moon in Gemini and it is Movies about Musicians

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Nov by sending them to

Try to think out of the box!

Let’s see if I felt that this movie would be worthy of being in the company of my others favorite movies in the genre of Movies About Musicians.

“I read music so good, white folks think I’m fakin’ it.” – Coalhouse Walker Jr.

Number of Times Seen – Twice (video in ’90 and 4 Nov 2018)

Brief Synopsis – The lives of various members of New York society are affected by the racial tensions of the age most notably a young black pianist

My Take on it – This is a film that I first saw when I was in 9th grade in history class.

Our teacher wanted to show us a realistic view of life during the turn of the 20th Century and she chose to let us see this film.

Unfortunately, the most memorable scene for me and my classmates is the fact that there is an entire monologue given by Elizabeth McGovern while she is completely topless.

I’m not sure what possessed our (female) teacher to choose to show us this film, but I must admit that before rewatching this film, I didn’t recall anything but that scene and I couldn’t even tell you what that monologue was all about.

That being said, this film is actually told really well and it manages to tell a great story about how people treated one another during the turn of the 20th Century.

They do an excellent job weaving together various stories so that they all find ways to intersect at different points in the film in a realistic and plausible fashion.

The cast is superb with James Cagney, Elizabeth McGovern, Mary Steenburgen, Mandy Patinkin, Harold Rollins Jr. and Brad Dourif all giving us stellar performances.

McGovern and Rollins were both deservingly nominated for Oscar for Supporting performances yet neither was able to win.

They do a great job of showing how life was like fr people during that time and how racial and marital tensions could easily disrupt normal lives (just like today) and it manages to work on numerous levels.

The characters are all presented in realistic ways and the choice to follow a black musician attempting to make his way in the world filled with dangers for people like him is a great one because it’s so easy to sympathize with him especially during his musical interludes splattered throughout the film.

Bottom Line – Great story that shows the way people were treated by other during the turn of the 20th century.  Really enjoyed the way that they tell so many various stories and find a way to tie them all together in realistic and plausible ways. Great cast led by Cagney, McGovern, Steenburgen, Patinkin, Rollins and Dourif.  Rollins and McGovern were both nominated for Oscars for their supporting performances yet neither won. The story manages to show that the way of life for people could easily be disrupted by various racial and marital tensions and works on numerous levels. The characters all feel quite realistic and I liked how it follows the story of a black musician trying to make his way and raise a family despite everything going on around him. Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – James Cagney had been advised by his doctors and caregivers that making a film at this point in his life was very important for his health. The actor never flew, so he and his wife took an ocean liner to London, where his scenes were filmed. Despite his numerous infirmities, he stayed on-set during his fellow actors’ close-ups to give them line readings. (From IMDB)

Genre Grandeur Worthy? – Not really, the story follows the life amidst racial tension of a black pianist who tries to overcome the difficulties of life, yet something is missing that would make this story more engaging for the viewer.

Rating – Globe Worthy (7/10)


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To see my reviews of Oscar Winning Performances check out this link

To see my reviews of all Oscar Best Picture Winners click here (now complete)

Here is a link to my movie index A-Z


3 thoughts on “Genre Guesstimation – Ragtime (1981)

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur November Finale – Coco (2017) – Moon in Gemini |

  2. Pingback: Temporal Top Ten – 1981 |

  3. Pingback: Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1981 |

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