Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hollywood Palace - 1965

God Bless YouTube!

About a year-and-a-half ago, the missus and I went to the Museum of Radio and Television in New York City. I spent two hours watching rare clips of Pops (I think she watched something with Michael Jackson!), including an episode of the popular Hollywood Palace, hosted by Louis, filmed on Aprill 11 and aired on May 1, 1965. Armstrong had just returned from an unbelievably successful tour of Europe, knocking the down the Iron Curtain a bit by performing to standing ovations in places like Prage, East Berlin, Bucharest and more. As I've written before, that tour contained some of Armstrong's finest blowing of his later years. When he returned, he was asked to host the Hollywood Palace for an episode that would celebrate Armstrong's 50th year in show business. Since Armstrong never had an "official" debut into show business, it was the kind of event that was seemingly celebrated every year depending on the occasion (first gig in New Orleans, 1915, first gig in Chicago, 1922, first record, 1923, you pick it and it was celebrated!).

There's not much I have to say other than this is old-school show biz at its finest. Pops is joined by Jimmy Durante, in his element, and a number of tribute telegrams are read by the likes of Rowan and Martin (pre-Laugh In) and Edward G. Robinson. Robinson's emoting as the background music swells is the kind of acting one never sees anymore but he sure sells his point. Pops looks touched and even gets to perform some of his hits, playing some forceful trumpet on "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" (he usually didn't play on this number anymore during his live shows) and, even rarer, contributing a too short solo to "Blueberry Hill," which finds him basically quoting "Moonglow" verbatim.

I spent about a year trying to track it down until I finally found a collector in Switzerland earlier this summer who had a copied it for me (for a fee, naturally). It was a nice part of my "Rare Pops Footage" collection but now it's not so rare as YouTube user "denbobboy" uploaded the whole damn show in four parts! I couldn't be happier because really, what good is the show doing in my collection? I'd rather Pops fans all around the world get to see it and thanks to denbobboy, now you can. Enjoy!

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