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From the novel by the same name by E. L. Doctorow

A slice of life in New York City of a hundred years ago (1910s), contrasting different classes and races. The story goes from a celebrated murder trial to a black piano player’s struggle for fairness.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest. Two of the Movie Buddies, Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl, had come, Spider Jerusalem was spending the weekend, and we were munching on the doughnuts they brought and watching the first in our James Cagney themed day. This was the one we randomly picked to start with, and it was excellent.

I had read the book when it came out, and really liked it; I remembered the book as being more about the murder trial than about Colehouse Walker taking over the library and threatening to blow it up; we picked it because it was Cagney’s last movie. Also, Mr. Otter had seen it when it came out and vouched for it, and after The Aviator, I am inclined to trust him on this sort of historical movie.

And this was indeed excellent. Beautifully filmed, excellent period detail, good attention to history, and it’s fun because it’s one of those movies that a whole lot of people who became better known later on were in…like a very young Samuel L. Jackson playing “Gang Member #2”! Also, Serious Honey Mandy Patinkin has a good role here as the artist who goes on to make silent films.

A real winner, watch and enjoy.

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