A Definitive Louis Armstrong Documentary Is In the Works — With Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries Leading the Effort

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Louis Armstrong in Amsterdam, 1955 (photo: The Netherlands Nationaal Archief)

Earlier today, it was announced that Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries had reached a deal with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation to produce a feature-length documentary about the famed jazz musician and singer.

The announcement comes on the heels of the theatrical release of Pavarotti, a documentary directed by Howard about the legendary Italian opera singer.

Justin Wilkes, who is the president of Imagine Documentaries, was responsible for a deal that will give the company exclusive access to copious amounts of material from the foundation, such as:

  • Audio Recordings
  • Film Footage
  • Photographs
  • Diaries
  • Memorabilia

Armstrong, who was also known as “Pops,” among other nicknames, created some of this material himself.  From the early 1950s up until his death a few decades later, Armstrong kept an audio diary on reel-to-reel tape that he updated almost daily.

He also carefully organized these recordings just for the kind of purpose Imagine is planning.

In a statement, Wilkes noted that it is hard for someone to imagine a voice that is more recognizable than Armstrong’s. However, at the same time, the story about this voice and the man behind it has never been fully told within the context of a motion picture.  He added that Imagine is proud to be able to do this.

Armstrong’s first hit song was back in 1923, in collaboration with his mentor Joe “King” Oliver.

Over the succeeding decades, his popularity never waned. In fact, he had a number one single in 1964 that knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts during their famed invasion of the United States.

Stanley Crouch, who is the president of The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, also issued a statement in reaction to the deal. He said that the documentary was the perfect way for the foundation to celebrate its 50-year anniversary.

It is expected that production of the film will begin this fall.