Howard Rollins Ragtime

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Directed byMiloš Forman
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Screenplay byMichael Weller
Bo Goldman (uncredited)
Based onRagtime
by E.L. Doctorow
Music byRandy Newman
CinematographyMiroslav Ondříček
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Antony Gibbs
Stanley Warnow
Distributed byParamount Pictures
  • November 20, 1981
155 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28.3 million[1]
Box office$21.2 million[1]

The actor Howard E. Rollins Jnr made his film debut in Milos Forman's Ragtime (1981) as Coalhouse Walker, the cool, sophisticated ragtime pianist who becomes head of a group of black revolutionaries. Dec 10, 1996 Howard Rollins, an actor who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981 for his work in the film 'Ragtime' and was written out of the hit television series 'In the Heat of the Night' in 1993. Historic Images Part Number: pix31965. This is an original press photo. Rollins, Howard E (Films). Photo is dated 12-5-1981. A: The short answer is no. It may contain wrinkles, cracks, and possibly even tears due to its age and how it was handled before it got to us. Howard Ellsworth Rollins Jr. (October 17, 1950 – December 8, 1996) was an American stage, film, and television actor. Howard Rollins was best known for his role as Andrew Young in 1978’s King, George Haley in the 1979 miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, Coalhouse Walker Jr. In the 1981 film Ragtime, Captain Davenport in the 1984 film A Soldier’s Story, and as Virgil Tibbs on the TV.

Ragtime is a 1981 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1975 historical novelRagtime by E.L. Doctorow. The film is set in and around turn-of-the-century New York City, New Rochelle, and Atlantic City, and includes fictionalized references to actual people and events of the time. The film stars James Olson, Mary Steenburgen, Howard Rollins, Brad Dourif, and Elizabeth McGovern, features the final film appearances of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien, and features early appearances, in small parts, by Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Samuel L. Jackson, Ethan Phillips, and John Ratzenberger.

Howard Rollins Ragtime Band


A newsreel montage depicts turn-of-the-20th-century celebrities including Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt, architect Stanford White (Norman Mailer), and life in New York City, accompanied by ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.). Millionaire industrialist Harry Kendall Thaw (Robert Joy) makes a scene when White unveils a nude statue atop Madison Square Garden, modeled after former chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (Elizabeth McGovern), Thaw's wife. Convinced White has corrupted Evelyn, Thaw publicly shoots him dead.

An upper-class family resides in New Rochelle, New York, where Father (James Olson) owns a factory where his wife's Younger Brother (Brad Dourif) makes fireworks. An African American baby is abandoned in their garden, and upon learning the police intend to charge the child's mother, Sarah (Debbie Allen), with child abandonment and attempted murder, Mother (Mary Steenburgen) takes Sarah and her child into the home despite Father's objections. Coalhouse arrives in search of Sarah, driving a new Ford Model T, and realizing he is the baby's father, announces his intention to marry Sarah.

Younger Brother witnesses White's murder and becomes obsessed with Evelyn. Thaw's lawyer Delmas (Pat O'Brien) bribes Evelyn with a million-dollar divorce settlement to keep silent about Thaw's mental instability and to testify that White abused her. Passing through the Lower East Side, Evelyn encounters street artist Tateh (Mandy Patinkin), who throws out his unfaithful wife (Fran Drescher). He leaves New York with their daughter and sells the flip book he created. Evelyn and Younger Brother begin an affair as she prepares her return to the stage, while he assumes they will eventually marry. After Thaw is found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, his lawyers inform Evelyn that Thaw will sue her for divorce on the grounds of infidelity and she accepts a smaller settlement. The affair ends, leaving Younger Brother adrift.

In New Rochelle, Coalhouse is targeted by bigoted volunteer firemen led by Willie Conklin (Kenneth McMillan), who refuse to allow his automobile to pass by. Coalhouse finds a policeman (Jeff Daniels) and returns to find his car soiled with horse manure. Coalhouse attempts to force the policeman to intervene, but the policeman insists that Colehouse should clean the manure off his car and move on, giving him the choice to do so or be arrested. Colehouse refuses, and is hauled in to the local precinct. After Father arranges for Coalhouse's release, they discover his car has been further vandalized. Coalhouse pursues legal action, but can find no lawyer willing to represent him. Father and Younger Brother argue over Coalhouse's legal recourse. At a presidential rally, Sarah attempts to tell President Roosevelt about Coalhouse's case but is beaten by guards and dies.

After Sarah's funeral, Coalhouse and his supporters kill several firemen. He threatens to attack other firehouses, demanding his car be restored and Conklin be turned over to him. Father is disgusted at the violence but Younger Brother joins Coalhouse's gang with his knowledge of explosives. Ostracized by their own white community and hounded by reporters, Father and Mother leave for Atlantic City. They encounter Tateh, now a film director on a photoplay with Evelyn. Mother is attracted to Tateh and she and Father quarrel. Coalhouse's gang hold the Pierpont Morgan Library's collection hostage. Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo (James Cagney) sends for Walker's child as a bargaining chip but Mother refuses to give him up. Father demands she turn the child over and returns to New York to assist Waldo and Mother leaves.

Booker T. Washington (Moses Gunn) fails to persuade Walker to surrender, as does Father. Conklin is captured by police and forced to apologize to Coalhouse. Waldo is disgusted by Conklin's bigotry but cannot submit to terrorist demands and has him arrested. Coalhouse agrees to surrender if Waldo permits his supporters to depart in his restored car and Waldo agrees after Father volunteers to stay as a hostage. Coalhouse's supporters escape and he drives Father out of the library. Ready to blow himself up, Coalhouse instead surrenders but is shot dead on Waldo's orders. The film ends with another newsreel: Evelyn dances in vaudeville and Thaw is released from an asylum. Houdini escapes from a straitjacket several stories above the ground, while newspapers announce that the First World War has begun. Younger Brother returns to his fireworks job and Father watches from the house in New Rochelle as Mother departs with Tateh and Coalhouse's son.[2]


Howard Rollins Ragtime Band

Howard rollins ragtime songsHoward Rollins Ragtime

The film is notable for introducing numerous actors for whom this was one of their first appearances in an American film: Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen, Jeff Daniels, Andreas Katsulas, Ethan Phillips, Stuart Milligan, and John Ratzenberger. Additionally, it was the final film of James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. Cagney had not acted in a film for 20 years before his appearance in Ragtime.

  • James Cagney as CommissionerRhinelander Waldo
  • Brad Dourif as Younger Brother
  • Moses Gunn as Booker T. Washington
  • Elizabeth McGovern as Evelyn Nesbit
  • Kenneth McMillan as Fire Chief Willie Conklin
  • Pat O'Brien as Delmas
  • Donald O'Connor as Evelyn's Dance Instructor
  • James Olson as Father
  • Mandy Patinkin as Tateh
  • Howard E. Rollins, Jr. as Coalhouse Walker Jr.
  • Mary Steenburgen as Mother
  • Debbie Allen as Sarah
  • Jeffrey DeMunn as Harry Houdini
  • Robert Joy as Harry Kendall Thaw
  • Norman Mailer as Stanford White
  • Edwin Cooper as Grandfather
  • Jeff Daniels as P.C. O'Donnell
  • Fran Drescher as Mameh
  • Frankie Faison as Gang Member
  • Alan Gifford as Judge
  • Richard Oldfield as Stock Reporter
  • Richard Griffiths as Delmas' Assistant
  • George Harris as Clef Club Bandleader
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Gang Member
  • Michael Jeter as Special Reporter
  • Andreas Katsulas as Policeman No.3
  • Joe Praml as Policeman No.8
  • Calvin Levels as Gang Member
  • Bessie Love as Old Lady (T.O.C.)
  • Christopher Malcolm as Police Captain
  • Stuart Milligan as The Marksman
  • Zack Norman as Manager
  • Ethan Phillips as Guard at Family House
  • Barry Dennen as Stage Manager
  • Jan Tríska as Special Reporter
  • Jack Nicholson as Pirate on Beach (uncredited)


The film was shot on location in New York City; Mount Kisco, New York; New Jersey; and at Shepperton Studios, UK. Robert Altman initially signed to direct the film, but was replaced by Forman.[2]


The film holds an aggregated score of 92% from Rotten Tomatoes, but a 57/100 from Metacritic indicating mixed or average reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, writing that 'Ragtime' is a loving, beautifully mounted, graceful film that creates its characters with great clarity. We understand where everyone stands, and most of the time we even know why.'[2]Vincent Canby gave the film a more mixed review, praising the performances and cinematography but criticizing Forman's narrative choices that created an unclear sense of time and prioritized certain storylines at the cost of others: '[Ragtime] is sorrowful, funny and beautiful. It is also, finally, very unsatisfactory.'[3]Christopher Null gave the film a negative review, calling it 'a jumbled and largely uninteresting mess.'[4]

Howard Rollins Ragtime


Awards and honors[edit]

AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
Academy AwardsMarch 29, 1982[5]Best Actor in a Supporting RoleHoward E. Rollins Jr.Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting RoleElizabeth McGovern
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another MediumMichael Weller
Best CinematographyMiroslav Ondříček
Best Art Direction – Set DecorationArt Direction: John Graysmark, Patrizia Von Brandenstein, and Tony Reading
Set Decoration: George DeTitta Sr., George DeTitta Jr., and Peter Howitt
Best Costume DesignAnna Hill Johnstone
Best Music, Original ScoreRandy Newman
Best Music, Original SongRandy Newman
For the song 'One More Hour'
BAFTA Awards1983Best Original SongRandy Newman
For the song 'One More Hour'
Golden Globe AwardsJanuary 20, 1982Best Motion Picture – Drama
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Motion PictureHoward E. Rollins, Jr.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Motion PictureMary Steenburgen
Best Director – Motion PictureMiloš Forman
Best Original Song – Motion PictureRandy Newman
For the song 'One More Hour'
New Star of the Year in a Motion PictureHoward E. Rollins, Jr.
Elizabeth McGovern
Grammy AwardsFebruary 23, 1983Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television SpecialRandy Newman
Los Angeles Film Critics AssociationDecember 14, 1981Best MusicRandy NewmanWon
NAACP Image AwardsDecember 5, 1982Outstanding Motion PictureNominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureMoses GunnWon
New York Film Critics CircleJanuary 31, 1982Best Supporting ActorHoward E. Rollins, Jr.4th place
Writers Guild of America AwardsMarch 30, 1982Best Drama Adapted from Another MediumMichael WellerNominated


Howard Rollins Ragtime

Howard Rollins Wiki

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
    • Coalhouse Walker, Jr. – Nominated[6]
  • 2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated[7]
Howard Rollins Ragtime

See also[edit]

  • Ragtime – the Tony-winning musical adaptation


  1. ^ abKnoedelseder, William K., Jr. (August 30, 1987). 'De Laurentiis: Producer's Picture Darkens'. Los Angeles Times. p. 1.
  2. ^ abcEbert, Roger (January 1, 1981). 'Ragtime'.
  3. ^Canby, Vincent (November 20, 1981). ''Ragtime' Evokes Real and Fictional Pasts'. The New York Times.
  4. ^Ragtime - Movie Reviews, retrieved December 7, 2020
  5. ^'Ragtime (1981) – Awards'. Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2012. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2008.
  6. ^'AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees'(PDF). Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  7. ^'AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees'(PDF). Retrieved August 6, 2016.

External links[edit]

  • Ragtime at IMDb
  • Ragtime at AllMovie
  • Ragtime at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Ragtime at Box Office Mojo
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