REVIEW from the day: "First Division Distributors picture, "Ragtime," being a story of New York's Tin Pan Alley, with the theme built around the two songs, "Thinking," and "O What a Mama You'd Make."
This is, all things considered, one of the smoothest comedy dramas it has been my pleasure to witness lately. Not so much because of its story, nor its direction, nor the photography, but because the capable players throw themselves so wholeheartedly into their performance. As with the spoken word, which means much or little according as to how it is spoken, the portrayal of an actor reflects his spirit. In "Ragtime," without exception, everybody appears to be in fine fettle, having a thoroughly enjoyable time and anxious that you should enjoy their party. You do. The scenes are laid in and about "Tin Pan Alley," where "the ghosts of great composers return to find themselves in jazz" - something like that the subtitle says - and you are given a sort of theatrical boarding house squint into the activities of a company who not only use slang - AND some - but live it. They are a brassy, jazzy, cheap shrewd lot. But in their midst is one who yearns for better things. Ted Mason, who plays the piano in the notorious Jail cafe. Ted has a nice mother and he would compose music - not as ragtime row knows it, but as Beth Barton, cultured and studying for a musical career under a great teacher, knows it. Beth comes into Ted's life via a slumming party. Also into that of "Slick" Martin, professional dancer at the joint, who has been long and scrappily married to a twelve minute egg you could easily believe to be a thirteen minute one.
Will you please give a thoughtful O. O. to the work of Robert Ellis as "Slick"? I think there has never been a more finished impersonation of the sort of character he starts out to portray. You've run into his "Slick" time and again - and never without experiencing a jungle urge to crush and kill. (This, by the way, is the same Robert Ellis who used to make our hearts go pitty pat in love scenes of not so long ago! Times and changes.) There's no space for further comment and, anyway, what can I say, dears, after I've said - "Ragtime" is a humdinger of a comedy? - Exhibitors Hearld (Jun-Sep 1927)
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