(out of 5)
This Milos Forman film adaptation of the E.L. Doctorow novel will be of particular interest to those who enjoyed the recent Broadway musical version (this one’s not a musical). It stars an ensemble cast whose interactions take place in turn-of-the-century America when the country was going through a major cultural upheaval in the post-industrial revolution era. Representing it all was the controversial sound of ragtime, a brand new style of music that many found to be the very source of immoral behaviour (when in fact it was the very source of jazz, and both are good for you in moderation). Mary Steenburgen and James Olson are the head of a prominent family whose experiences in their changing world form the center of the story, while Harold E. Rollins Jr. stands out in a terrific role as a man trying to make a life for himself in a very cruel and racist world. Elizabeth McGovern is a delight as a burlesque singer constantly in search of a new sponsor, Mandy Patinkin plays a Jewish immigrant whose inability to get hired pushes him out west into a new business called ‘motion pictures’, and the great James Cagney appears in his final film role as a police captain.
Dino De Laurentiis Company, Sunley Productions Ltd.
Directed by Milos Forman
Cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Music by Randy Newman
Production Design by John Graysmark
Costume Design by Anna Hill Johnstone
Film Editing by Anne V. Coates, Antony Gibbs, Stanley Warnow