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!
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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