I don’t know what viewers will see in this clip from the 1936 Bing Crosby musical PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, which gave Louis his first starring role in a full-length motion picture. Some may find it offensive, demeaning. After all, the premise of this dramatization of “The Skeleton in the Closet” is racist. Colored folks, everyone knew back then, were frightened to death of spooks.
But I see Louis the peerless actor, storyteller, comedian, also the man who was a great dancer. And that masked drummer, young Lionel Hampton, is swinging heroically.
But when Louis blows his mighty horn and chases that skeleton back to the graveyard, I see a man vanquishing death. Not only for himself, but for all of us. What we love and what we create lives on.