Louis Armstrong is an Icon. He symbolizes musical genius, unparalleled success, and unassailable character. His wholesome, non-threatening image preserved his singular career as a black performer with unfettered access to a white man's world. Yet he had other desires, he had a longing, and in private, he held tightly to the things he loved. Perhaps closest to his heart was his daughter, Sharon, who he hid from the world and secrecy until now. (1)
Little Satchmo is directed by John Alexander and produced by JC Guest, who previously filmed in Geary County for their cult thriller feature debut Bender, about the notorious Bloody Bender family; Little Satchmo is based on Preston-Folta’s memoir of the same title, detailing how Sharon, the product of a two-decade love affair between Satchmo and Harlem dancer Lucille ‘Sweets’ Preston, had no option but to the harbor and concealed her identity for decades before making it public.
Fifty years after the death of Louis Armstrong, the only child of the American icon, Sharon Preston-Folta, comes forward in an award-winning PBS documentary, Little Satchmo, set to screen at the C.L. Hoover Opera House on October 8th at 7:00 pm, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
Director John Alexander met Preston-Folta through his producer, Lea Umberger, who gave him a copy of Preston-Folta’s 2021 memoir, Little Satchmo: Living in the Shadow of My Father, Louis Daniel Armstrong.
Alexander said he read the book in one sitting. Then he connected with Preston-Folta and discussed making a film with her and Umberger. He said soon he felt like he’d known his subject for years.
“The heart of this story, for me, is the little girl Sharon was, and this little girl who is still in her who loved her daddy — missed her daddy. And he missed her,” She didn’t know he was a superstar, that he had a wife and a public life."
“To tell this story, I was putting myself in that little girl’s shoes, being home alone and waiting for your daddy to see you again, playing with the toys he would bring in a stocking. She would dance and listen to his music. She had his shirt — a Hawaiian shirt. She would sway with it.”
The film Little Satchmo chronicles Preston-Folta’s life, running on a sort of parallel track to Armstrong’s. And when he died after a heart attack when Preston-Folta was 16, it had been several years since she’d seen or spoken to him.
Little Satchmo is quietly confrontational about its central conflict. Even as adultery is romanticized and forgiven in everything from epic love stories to pop music, so much about infidelity unfolds like abuse: the secrecy, the honeymoon periods of intimacy broken by silence and retreat. And the children born out of double lives — Preston-Folta remembers a childhood marked by longing for her father and hearing her mother cry. They had all the money they needed. But they didn’t have Armstrong all the way. (2)
We are excited to have this award-winning film in our Opera House here in Junction City, KS.
Tickets are only $8. Purchase your tickets at jcoperhouse.org or call 785-238-3906
2. https://dentonrc.com/entertainment/festival/set-free-by-truth-little-satchmo-tells-story- of-Louis-Armstrongs-only-daughter-at-festival/article_232d183f-f5d1-5a43-a113-1b49fc6abf48.html