Happy Halloween! Louis Armstrong Performs Skeleton in the Closet (1936)

Should you hap­pen to be in the vicin­i­ty of Coro­na, Queens this Hal­loween after­noon, the Louis Arm­strong House Muse­um will be wel­com­ing trick-or-treaters ’til 6pm. (Fun-sized Snick­ers be damned! Go any­way, just to see “To Jack Bradley, the ‘Great­est’ Pho­to Tak­er,” a col­lec­tion of can­did, pri­vate moments cap­tured by the friend Satch­mo described as his “white son.”)

If pre-exist­ing engage­ments pre­vent you from haunt­ing Coro­na today, vir­tu­al chills await you, above, with “The Skele­ton In The Clos­et,” Armstrong’s show-stop­ping num­ber from 1936’s Pen­nies From Heav­en. (That masked man on the drums is fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Lionel Hamp­ton.)

The vin­tage Hal­loween con­tent is a real treat. Gimme ghosts, gob­lins, and an “old desert­ed man­sion on an old for­got­ten road” over psy­cho gore or depressed pre­fab sex­i­ness any day, not just Octo­ber 31.

Pen­nies From Heav­en was Armstrong’s first major screen appear­ance. At the insis­tence of star Bing Cros­by, his turn as a math­e­mat­i­cal­ly-chal­lenged band­leader snagged him a main title cred­it, a first for an African-Amer­i­can actor appear­ing oppo­site whites.

The role itself is not a pil­lar of race advance­ment, but Ricky Ric­car­di, the Arm­strong House’s Archivist notes that Arm­strong remained fond of the work, reen­act­ing an entire scene from mem­o­ry when he and Cros­by appeared as guests on the David Frost Show in 1971.

Ric­car­di sub­jects “The Skele­ton in the Clos­et” to a close musi­cal and per­for­mance analy­sis on his Won­der­ful World of Louis Arm­strong blog, a major source of year round good­ies for Arm­strong fans.

Rat­tle your bones!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Louis Arm­strong Plays His­toric Cold War Con­certs in East Berlin & Budapest (1965)

Watch the Ear­li­est Known Footage of Louis Arm­strong Per­form­ing Live in Con­cert (Copen­hagen, 1933)

Louis Arm­strong Plays Trum­pet at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids; Dizzy Gille­spie Charms a Snake in Pak­istan

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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