Scott Joplin – 1977 – King of Ragtime!
I fell in love with Scott Joplin’s music when I first saw The Sting! You know the movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford along with loads of other actors that you certainly know by face, but necessarily their name. That’s how it is for me anyway. Wait a minute. Robert Shaw does a brilliant part as well! The Sting featured Scott Joplin’s music just as much as any actor in it, at least in my mind. I was totally blown away bu the movie and it’s still on my list of best movies of all time!
I even got so far as to get sheet music and a cheap keyboard to try to learn to play the Entertainer, my all-time favorite Scott Joplin song. It’s probably the one he’s most famous for anyway. But my coordination between my hands is not the best for playing the keyboard or the piano. I can cheat a bit but not enough to perform the song like I wanted to. I had to give up that idea and the keyboard now lives in the garage. But I knew nothing about the man, I loved his music but didn’t bother to find out anything about Scott Joplin himself. I still haven’t until this day. Sad really, to love someone’s music but know nothing about the composer.
Is it true?
Therefore, I cannot really say if this adaptation of Scott Joplin’s life is true or not. It seems pretty believable but on the other hand, I’m not sure that black men were treated so well as they are in the movie in the early 1900s? Maybe they were, depending on where in the USA they resided? I’ll leave that up to someone else to sort out. But in this biography, black people seem to be treated the same way as anybody else. Of course, most of the cast is blank so that might make a difference too? Maybe it’s a way of saying that there we segregation and that only a handful of white people appreciated the Ragtime music that the movie revolves around.
There are piano competitions and some great music throughout the movie. If I understand it correctly, it’s all Scott Joplins Music obviously arranged by someone for the music. I also believe there is some other music in there, created for the movie. I don’t really care, it’s the Rags and the piano music that you immediately hear Scott Joplin’s touch on that stays in my memory.
Billy Dee Williams
In the title role, we see Billy Dee Williams of all people. I didn’t recognize him at all, but this is one of his first film roles so it was a while ago. But on the other hand, The empire Strike back was made in 1980, only three years later and there I have no problem recognizing him. That must mean that he does a very good job here. The best acting is usually made by people that don’t look like the stars that they are. I mean, you will always recognize Arnold Schwarzenegger as a star but you might not notice Gary Oldman in a part as he becomes the part he’s playing. You know what I mean, right?
But even how good Billy Dee Williams is in the part as Scott Joplin, it’s not really believable that he’s actually playing the piano most of the time. They usually just show the fingers or the face and not both at the same time anyway. I think they get away with it but I would have wanted something more there. But the movie is only partly focused on the music anyway. If you want to hear the music you can turn to Spotify or preferably go to a physical media. Here we get a story about the man. A man struggling to get his music accepted as art and “real” music. Not just some entertainment in a bar or a brothel. He never gives up but also never got the recognition that he deserved.
Actually, I think it was The Sting in 1973 that opened up his music to the masses. Some 50 years after his death. And, from what I’ve learned from this movie, his ragtime Opera finally got set up on broadway the year after that. It’s a sad story really about this man’s life and struggles, and some of the people around him. I think he died a lonely man but with enough pride to never compromise about his music! Scott Joplin was a great composer for sure! I love his music!