Milos Foreman's cinematic adaptation of E.L. Doctrow's sprawling pop-culture epic Ragtime follows a variety of characters whose lives intertwine during the earliest years of the 20th century. Brad Dourif plays the meek young brother in a wealthy family who ends up helping Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins) when the proud black man stands up to the racism that surrounds him with a criminal act that leads to a standoff with a police commissioner (James Cagney - making his return to the big screen after fifteen years away). Secondary characters include a street artist (Mandy Patinkin) who gets his foot in the door of the nascent film business, and a flighty young woman (Elizabeth McGovern) who inspires men who desire her to violence. Randy Newman composed the score, which included a song that earned him his first Oscar nomination.
by Perry Seibert synopsis