EXCLUSIVE: Currently in theaters with the Ron Howard-directed documentary Pavarotti, Imagine Documentaries has formed an exclusive partnership with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation to create a definitive feature documentary on the beloved and iconic jazz musician and entertainer. Imagine Documentaries President Justin Wilkes forged a deal that brings access to hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries and a life’s worth of memorabilia for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to his life. In addition to Louis’ prolific music and film career, Louis was an avid biographer and kept an almost daily audio diary from the early 1950’s until the day he passed in 1971. He did it all on reel-to-reel tape recordings and all organized meticulously “for posterity” by “Pops” himself.
“I find it difficult to imagine a voice more globally recognized than that of Louis Armstrong,” Wilkes said. “And yet, the story behind the voice; of the music, the man, and the impact he had on our world have never been fully recognized on film. As the song goes, we’re honored to bring him ‘back to where he belongs.’”
Widely known as the Promethean genius of modern American music teaching the world the language of jazz as its greatest singer and instrumentalist, Louis was an imaginative, insightful and industrious artist and entertainer of such depth and irresistible magnetism that he charted a number one record in 1964, temporarily interrupting the British Invasion and knocking The Beatles off the top of the charts, some 41 years after his groundbreaking recordings with his mentor Joe “King” Oliver. Offstage he was witty, introspective, but had an explosive temper. His larger-than-life and conventionally softened stage personality was much tougher and sharp-edged than his fans ever knew, understandable given how his rise had much to do with overcoming racism.
“This is a perfect time to remind the world of the power, depth and beauty in Louis Armstrong’s music and story, especially as we celebrate fifty years of Armstrong’s generosity in establishing the Foundation,” said Stanley Crouch, President of The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. “He was born in poverty in one of the roughest neighborhoods in New Orleans, Louisiana. Absorbing the multilayered music and culture of that fascinating place and time, he went on to heal and educate the country and world with the depth of his playing, singing and undying belief in the value of our common humanity. The life and times, trials, tribulations and triumphs of Louis Armstrong still has much to show the world. He is an iconic genius whose rich musical, social and philosophical insights are timeless.”
Production begins this fall.
Hatched by Howard and his Imagine partner Brian Grazer, Imagine Documentaries’ has broadened a slate that includes the Bryce Dallas Howard documentary Dads, the Ron Howard directed documentary Rebuilding Paradise for National Geographic Documentary Films, a documentary about 13-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade for ESPN Films, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, which opens the Toronto Film Festival next month, and the docu-series She The People with Sarah Jones, for CNN. The division recently teamed up with Apple to produce a slate of feature documentaries and docuseries, under an exclusive, first-look deal.