Tag Archives: Ossie Davis

Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (Sacha Jenkins, 2022)

PSA: Just highlighting the LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S BLACK AND BLUES documentary — currently on Apple — which I liked so much I plan on re-seeing it: there is marvellous archival footage: photographs of his youth, his collages, never-before-seen clips of him recording; the sight of his upper lip, bruised from playing the horn, and excerpts of the recordings he made of himself talking at home, sometimes alone, sometimes talking to friends. Armstrong’s been a figure in my life all my life, but I only intersected, entwined really, with his music in the late 80s after borrowing some of the compilations of his records with the Hot Five and the Hots Seven from the UEA library: Ain’t Misbehaving; Black and Blue; St. James Infirmary, Wild Man Blues and so many more. The movie has two axes: one revolves around showing some of his achievements, which I think too vast to be really calculable, the film can only offer evidence for a few – the notes he reached on his horn, say, though Wynston Marsalis is marvellous at illustrating this; the other revolves around accusations of Uncle Tomism by younger generations, including Ossie Davis. Davis remembers catching him offguard, tired and sad, and then when he came to, there was the smile, the grin, the face to white America; and Davis remembers how in that change he saw his ancestors, his father, himself; every black man who survived American racism. There’s a moment where Armstrong describes all the horrible things he endured; and the even worse things he saw and says, ‘and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it if I wanted to keep on breathing.’…All of that and more – the pain and a joy that seems transcendental – is of course in the music, at least for those who have learned how to listen to it. The film is good at demonstrating why Armstrong is one of the key cultural figures of the last century – a force really — and one of the most likeable.


José Arroyo

A note and gif on The Scalphunters (Sidney Pollack, 1968)

The Scalphunters


The Scalphunters is anti-racist Western directed by Sidney Pollack. Burt Lancaster is the trapper whose furs, a whole winter’s work, get stolen first by Apaches, then by a gang of scalphunters led by Telly Savallas. Ossie Davis is the runaway house-slave hoping to get to Mexico and freedom. They have great chemistry and are very funny together. The film begins with Burt rescuing Ossie but planning to sell him, to them after a fight, encased in a mud that metaphorically erases their colour differences, sharing a horse and continuing in their quest to get the furs back. Shelley Winters plays the Western equivalent of a gangster’s moll, a completely stereotypical part, and is rather miraculous with it: nothing has dated about her performance except her hairdo. This gif, your daily Burt, is from near the end of the film: