Ragtime music in old movies

For those who weren’t around yet, there was a ragtime revival of sorts that began in 1970 and lasted about 10 years. Music publishers brought out the complete work of Scott Joplin and other composers of the era, and college dorm music rooms were alive with the sounds of students pounding this stuff out in their spare time. I was one of those students, and at one time had a repertoire of thirty or forty pieces under my belt.

Common wisdom has it that ragtime exploded on the scene around 1899 and faded into virtual oblivion from about 1950 on. Joplin’s publisher John Stark continued putting out scores by other writers, right up to the early 1920’s, but by then they were so passe as to go virtually unnoticed.

So the first time I watched the 1930 film The Public Enemy, with Cagney as a gangster, I was surprised to hear someone playing Maple Leaf Rag in the background during one scene. It was played slowly and deliberately, as by someone struggling to play it all the way through for the first time. This particular scene is supposed to be from the Cagney character’s youth, taking place in 1915. Still I was astonished that the producers of the film, in 1930, thought of using the Maple Leaf Rag which was published in 1899.

So I’m wondering if there are any similar occurrences of genuine ragtime in early sound films. Does anyone know of any? Please understand that Western saloon scenes with a piano player banging out Oh, Dem Golden Slippers or a Dixieland band doing When The Saints Go Marching In don’t count.

Oops, that would be “from about 1915 on”.

Well, of course there’s Tin Pan Alley (1940), but that’s about ragtime.

From the IMDb soundtrack listings:

Tiger Rag in Birth of the Blues (1941), Black Angel (1946), Hits and Bits of 1938 (1938), Is Everybody Happy? (1929), Juke Box Jenny (1942), New Orleans (1947) Sandy Is a Lady (1940), The Singing Marine (1937), Strike Up the Band (1940); in animated shorts Betty Boop and Grampy (1933), Blitz Wolf (1942), Fine Feathered Friend (1942), Goopy Geer (1932), I Ain’t Got Nobody (1932). The Old Mill Pond (1936), Uncle Tom’s Cabaña (1947); in Vitaphone shorts An All-Colored Vaudeville Show (1935), The Band Beautiful (1928), Gus Arnheim and His Ambassadors (1928), Harry Reser and His Eskimos (1936), Melody Master Bands: Dixieland Jamboree (1946), That’s the Spirit (1933)

Bugle Call Rag in A Bundle of Blues (1933), Moments of Charm (1939 Paramount short), Orchestra Wives (1942)

That International Rag in Call Me Madam (1953)

12th Street Rag in Close Harmony (1929), Juke Box Rhythm (1959)

Ragtime Violin in Easter Parade (1948)

Lullaby in Ragtime in The Five Pennies (1959)

Varsity Rag in Good News (1930 & 1947)

Ragtime Cowboy Joe in Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943), Incendiary Blonde (1945), Law of the West (1932), Near the Rainbow’s End (1930)

Texas Washboard Rag in Hittin’ the Trail (1937)

The Johnson Rag in The I Don’t Care Girl (1953)

Accordion Rag in Modernaires with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra (1952 Universal short)

Hello, My Ragtime Gal and The Michigan Rag in One Froggy Evening (1955 Warner Bros. animated short)

Teasing Rag in Somebody Loves Me (1952)

Lone Star Rag in Take Me Back to Oklahoma (1940)

Maple Leaf Rag in The Whoopee Party (1932 Disney animated short)

Home Run on the Keys in the Vitaphone short of the same name (1936)