Randy Newman's Oscar-nominated score for Ragtime, released WAAAY back in 1981 directed by Milos Forman, has been one of my favorite scores to listen to ever since I was a kid. I've listened to that LP continuously, every note of the songs still stuck in my head even to this day. I didn't see the film until I was much older. I was honestly surprised at how much of the score on the album is unused in the finished film. There's a lot of really good stiff Newman wrote that is either used in the film partially or not at all. I thought this thread would be a great way to discuss this underrated and forgotten score. I'll try to do comparisons/reflections on each track of the album with each post.
Main Title (Track 1 on album)
This gorgeous, melancholy tune begins with a soulful violin/piano duet before transitioning into a very nice delivery by the orchestra. This melody is also used for the ending song of the picture, "One More Hour." In the film it's mostly used intact, save for the closing coda, which is dialed out. One thing that bears note, however, is that the first twelve notes played by piano only are exclusive to the film and not on the album.
Interestingly, this tune was conceived originally for the end credits. In a way since "One More Hour" is the last song we hear in the film, it still sort of is.
Newsreel (Track 2 on album)
After the credits conclude, the O in director Milos Forman's name literally zooms in to reveal a black Harlem man accompanying a newsreel on film. This is Coalhouse Walker, Jr., (Howard E. Rollins), one of three central characters imagined in E.L. Doctorow's book of the same name. His story is the one that Forman chooses to focus on. The cue starts off in the film similar to the album, but after the first 36 seconds, but then segues into other songs of the time, including "Glory, Glory Hallelujah", so as to accompany the visuals onscreen. It's also performed differently in the film than in the album.
The album recording, however, uses the song as Newman originally intended, and is played by him. You will notice how it is considerably different to what we hear in the final film. The theme introduced at 1:00 will be heard again at several points in the score, as it does seem like a motif for Coalhouse and his pursuit of justice.
White's Ballroom (Track 14 on album, mislabeled as "Atlantic City".)
Source music. This plays after the newsreel scene in which Stanford White (Norman Miller) is holding a party. While the party is extravagant and rousing, the mood doesn't stay that way for long, for enraged millionaire Henry K. Thaw interrupts the party to protest the nude statue on Madison Square Garden: it is that of his wife, Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus showgirl who supposedly had an affair with White. This cue is mostly used in its entirety in the film, as it's more of a dance tune. It's a pleasant, lively tune.
I Could Love a Million Girls (Track 3 on album)
This jaunty, controversial track is also one of the most authentic uses in the score. In real-life, this piece was played when Stanford Miller was murdered. This cue plays out pretty much the same way. It should be noted, though, that an instrumental interlude of this song is not on the album. There was supposedly some rumors that Newman might have tampered with some of the lyrics (references to a glass eye and a wooden leg), but the composer still denies it. Having found this cue so much fun to listen to without the context of the film, it is somewhat jarring to see it as it is used until one realizes the circumstances surrounding it.
Ragtime Theme (Demo) (Track 19 on album)
This seems to be a prototype of the opening waltz. A similar version with different arrangements is played for the second newsreel sequence.
Lower East Side (Track 6 on album)
On album, this track is two cues in one. For the first half, we hear a string-plucked guitar of some kind delivering yet another jaunty tune. In the film it's heard when Evelyn first meets the Jewish artist Tateh (Mandy Patinkin), who produces a shadow cutout of her face. She even meets his daughter. The cue is longer in film than on the album, however, and interestingly, is accompanied by the sound of horse carriages traveling.
The second part of the track happens much later in the film, at the end of Thaw's trial. "Case Closed" is what I've chosen to call it. It begins at 0:34 and is one of the few cues in the film to be used as is.
Train Ride (Track 4 on album)
Why am I jumping back and forth between tracks? Because the album stitches the cues together somewhat out of order, so I'm trying to go with them chronologically. It starts out when Coalhouse begins his piano audition for the Clef Club band, then segues into Tateh and his daughter traveling across New York in search of better times after having a falling out with his wife. Although the cue is edited somewhat in the film, for the most part it's used as is.
Tateh's Picture Book (Track 5 on album)
Played when Tateh shows his flip book to a merchant. Delivered on glockenspiel. It's heard rather quietly in the film, but it, too, is mostly used intact.
Clef Club Rag (Track 13 on album as "Clef Club No. 1")
This is yet another source cue, abridged in the film but without any noticeable jarring cuts. Luckily the melody on album is reprised twice. We hear this in the picture as Coalhouse, now a member of the Clef Club band, performs before an exuberant crowd. (It should be noted that a series of descending piano chords prior to the first piano solo is heard only in film; it was probably overdubbed.)
Delmonica Polka (Track 7 on album)
Only the second half of this cue is heard in its entirety; the first half begins but is cut short. In the film we hear this as Evelyn's nude statue is finally taken off the Madison Square Garden building. The song, as the title implies, is a polka, a lively, exuberant one.
Waltz for Evelyn (Track 9 on album)
This joyful, Strauss-like waltz is tracked twice in the film. It follows the dismantling of the nude statue scene to a scene where a tipsy Evelyn negotiates with her new managers. Much later on in the film, Father (James Olson) is called back to New York to try to settle things with Coalhouse, who at this point, has become a terrorist due to tragic circumstances. Mother begs him not to go. The obliviously joyful tone of this cue, which is meant to be source music, intentionally serves as a clashing counterpoint to this argument.
Coalhouse and Sarah (Track 8 on album)
This cue is heard in its entirety in the film. The first half is primarily piano solo, as Coalhouse demonstrates his impeccable piano playing skills before Father and Mother. He has come to court Sarah (Debbie Allen), who he has had a child with. That child has ended up on the doorstep of the unnamed New Rochelle family who serves as the real main characters of the story. The first half of this cue is Chopin-style. The latter half features swelling, swirling music as Coalhouse comes upstairs to the attic and Sarah reconciles with him. It is a beautiful, heartfelt moment, but it's also bittersweet. For after this tender scene, it's all downhill for Coalhouse, for after proposing marriage, his car is trashed by racist fireman Willie Conklin. Infuriated, Coalhouse demands justice, calling off his marriage with Sarah. When Sarah tries to argue for Coalhouse's behalf to the president, she is clubbed and tragically killed by policeman.
Sarah's Funeral (Track 16 on album)
This is a very melancholy, sad piece delivered on trombones. It plays during the scene in question intact.
(At this point, Coalhouse forsakes piano playing and decides to take on more violent, drastic terms to take vengeance on the wrongs done to him, attacking firehouses.)
Clef Club No. 2 (Track 15 on album)
Another fast, exuberant dance track serving as source music. It plays when Younger Brother (Brad Dourif) comes to the Clef Club, requesting to see Coalhouse, only to be turned down by the waiter. For the most part this cue plays in the film intact, but the ending is mostly shortened. This song mostly repeats itself. But it IS a favorite of mine.
"You Are Damned, Mr. Walker" (Track 11 on album, mislabeled as "Sarah's Responsibility". No, seriously!)
After Booker T. Washington (Moses Gunn in a charismatic and emotionally charged performance) fails to convince Walker to abandon his terrorist campaign and surrender, this ominous cue begins as he utters the above line. This short cue plays as is in the film -- about 54 seconds at most -- as police commissioner Rhinelander Waldo (James Cagney, out of retirement) -- orders the policemen to surround the Morgan Library. Bringing back to my mention of Coalhouse's themes, the first few notes from the "Clef Club No 1" rag are heard at 0:13, and then the latter half we hear the second half of "Newsreel" from the beginning.
It should be noted that this cue comes much long after some others. The next one I'm about to describe is the longest on the soundtrack album.
Denouement: Morgan Library Takeover / Rhinelander Waldo / Coalhouse's Prayer (Track 17 on album)
The craziest thing about this long track is that only a good third of it is heard in the final film. As the title mentions, it's several cues in one, each out of order.
Section 1) We first hear an African-American rendering of "Stand Up For Jesus". My guess is that this cue was intended to be used for the scene in which Booker Washington approaches the library or Waldo, but it was never used in the final cut. A shame, because this acapella rendition is gorgeous and soulful.
Section 2) After this we get a series of pounding chords from the orchestra in aggressive terms. This is the "Morgan Library Takeover" portion of the cue, which is tracked twice in the film, and even then it's not used in its entirety. Only the first 35 seconds are heard in its initial reference, in which Coalhouse and his band of terrorists invade the Morgan Library, set an explosive on the street, order policemen and passerby to clear before shooting the package in question, which breaks a water main.
Later we hear this cue reprised after Waldo agrees to Coalhouse's newest terms: return his car in its original state (actually a brand new one) and allowing his men to go free. Interestingly, the latter half of the first 35 seconds which consists of repeating chords is heard as Waldo secretly instructs several men to pursue Coalhouse's followers before returning to the beginning. The cue plays a little bit longer beyond 35 seconds to a tense but uneasy statement on flutes/clarinets (which will be heard at the beginning of the next section of this cue) as Father, having agreed to act as a hostage in the library, approaches the doors. The remaining 45 seconds of this cue, however, are unused. My guess is that it's meant to accompany the rest of the scene all the way up to Coalhouse instructing the police to turn off the searchlights before he initiates his men to escape. Note that toward the end of it we hear the first three notes of the Clef Club rag reprised three times in a row.
Section 3) "Rhinelander Waldo" begins with ominous sounding brass/piano chords. The same statement by flutes/clarinets, which we can assume is meant to address the police commissioner in question, is heard after these chords. Once again, this cue is shortened, and tracked twice in the film. First is when Waldo arrives in carriage (and even then, it's abbreviated). Second is when Waldo approaches the Morgan Library with a megaphone in hand. Only 26 seconds of this are included in the final cut. For the remaining 40, Newman employs a saxophone/brassy kind of march which gradually turns into another burst of exclamation. My guess is that this was intended to be used for the rest of the scene as Waldo approaches the library, only to be stopped when a brass cup is thrown out of the doors. I tried matching it to the film and oddly, it did seem to fit. It's a wonder as to why this cue wasn't used.
Section 4) "Coalhouse's Prayer" is all but unused except for one portion. It begins with an ominous statement of the first three notes of the Clef Club No. 1 rag and continues to very tense sustained notes by strings. It's difficult to know for sure what Newman's intentions for this were, but my guess is that it is meant to underscore the suspenseful scene in which Coalhouse's men make their escape in the Model T. The first minute of this cue doesn't even show up, but there are three esoteric piano notes that are repeated after brief pauses. These notes can be heard as an overdub in the second tracking of the "Morgan Library Takeover" scene as Coalhouse's men prepare to make their move, including Younger Brother washing off the black ink on his face.
The second half of the cue begins with an explosive outburst by the full orchestra, as Coalhouse, fittingly enough for this musical cue, lashes out at Father, "GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE! DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND ANYTHING, WHITE MAN?!" causing the latter to flee the library, limping. (This is just what Waldo wants to see, for he suspects that Walker is a terrorist with ulterior motives to destroy himself in the Library.) As the orchestra slowly dies down with a whimper, the cue stops in the picture. On album, though, there are still 55 seconds of music which are still unused. It's obviously intended to underscore Coalhouse's final monologue in the picture, in which he calls on God. (This scene, incidentally, is amazingly acted by Rollins. His delivery of "Why did You put such a rage in my heart?" never ceases to move.) The final long chord by the strings is probably meant to play for when he comes down the stairs before Waldo gives the order to gun him down.
All of this is my assumption, but it is a shame that most of this music was never used.
Ragtime (Track 18 on album)
This is the final cue of the picture, and is used intact, save for the final coda, which is shortened in half. It is a lovely statement of the waltz theme for the opening, beautifully underscoring the film's coda, in which we see Evelyn and her partner dance away, intercutting between Father watching his family leave with the now financially successful Tateh, Thaw released from the asylum (despite being guilty of murder), and Houdini's act. It is a fittingly melancholy conclusion to an appropriately downbeat story.
One More Hour (Track 10 on album)
This is the song that closes Ragtime over the end credits. Sung with gentle tenderness by Jennifer Warnes, this song deserved its Oscar nomination. The album features a slightly different mix from that of the final film. The opening stanzas by the piano are noticeably slower in the film mix, while the reprise/second half moves it to a lower octave.
Which leaves us with only one track that also appears nowhere in the film.
Change Your Way (Track 12 on album)
This jaunty, funny tune, delivered by Newman on piano with his distinctive voice was actually supposed to open the picture and transition directly to the opening newsreel. So what happened? Well, as fate would have it, the footage for the song (which was supposed to be sung by Scatman Crothers) was never shot, and so it ended up not making it into the film after all. Nonetheless, Newman thought to include it on the album in the hope that it would "get him on the radio." Pity it didn't happen, because this song is pure Newman in style and delivery. It's funny and sardonic, very much the equivalent of a mother/parent scolding an unruly child (which is exactly what the lyrics imply).
All in all, Randy Newman's work for Ragtime has been unjustly forgotten by both the public and by many score fans. Some of it may come on account of the film, which, although well made, was at the time highly criticized for being somewhat watered down from the source material. In all fairness, though, Ragtime would have been a tough piece to adapt for cinema either way considering its complex structure. Nonetheless, there are fans of the film, myself included, because of the powerful performances and of course, Newman's timeless score. On album it's relatively short, clocking in at about 37 minutes, yet there are also some cues that are in the film which are missing. One of them is the official version of "Atlantic City", and another is a cue where Younger Brother pursues Evelyn's carriage down New York's Lower East Side. It would be nice to have a complete edition of this score made available with detailed notes on the music cues ala Alien, although the reissue by Rhino, with great sound quality, BTW, does contain a detailed essay about the movie and Newman's involvement with it. It also features a really humorous, sarcastic intro by Randy:
"Here it is--the only record yet to be released in this exciting new format, the compact disc. The record company bided its time and waited for the perfect moment to maximize commercial prospect for this, the last disc. The compact disc is indeed compact. It is much smaller than your vinyl "records." The sound is clearer, and there is nosurface noise. We think that the disc is a remarkable technical advance. The high end sucks, but we're going to fix it and call it something else and rerelease everything. Good for you, good for us. Hope you enjoy this exciting new product."
Considering that Ragtime is a depressing film, it's almost surprising to see such a lighthearted intro from its composer in the liner notes.