LITTLE SATCHMO is an interesting and provocative documentary directed by John Alexander and starring Sharon Preston-Folta, the daughter of famous musician Louis Armstrong.
Didn’t know that Louis Armstrong had a daughter? Neither did the world until Sharon revealed it to the world. This movie shows just how little we knew about one of history’s most famous faces, and how we need to consider the whole person, not just the fame, when we look at their legacy.
Using audio tapes in Louis’ own voice, letters, photos, and Sharon’s testimony, we come to understand how this secret was kept and why. The audience is given insight into the segregated era of the United States, and how Louis Armstrong’s fame and standing within white culture kept him from admitting his affair and secret child with the general public.
In this hour-long documentary, we are given the gift that is Sharon Preston-Folta, and her memories begin to fill in the incomplete picture of Louis’ life, and a time in American history that isn’t spoken about as forthrightly as it should be.
We are also introduced to Sharon’s mother, a dancer named Lucille Sweets-Preston and her twenty-year relationship with Louis that was kept secret after the death of her own husband Slim, and despite Louis’ penchant for one-night stands and other indiscretions, kept their affair alive for years through her dedication to him. The movie really shows how complicated these people were, and not just the faces on the posters, or the lit-up marquee names that audiences made them out to be.
The movie isn’t a love letter to Louis Armstrong, nor is it a full condemnation either. As a good documentary should do, it lays out the facts and allows the audience to make up their own mind.
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