Louis Prima: The Wildest!

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Superficial but thoroughly engaging, Don McGlynn's documentary breezes through the life and be-bopping times of Louis Prima, whose five-decade career was rooted in a ballsy, cheerfully vulgar performing style that swirled Dixieland, jazz, swing and comic raunch into an audience-pleasing hybrid. You don't have to be a Prima fan to enjoy the movie's treasure...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Superficial but thoroughly engaging, Don McGlynn's documentary breezes through the life and be-bopping times of Louis Prima, whose five-decade career was rooted in a ballsy, cheerfully vulgar performing style that swirled Dixieland, jazz, swing and comic

raunch into an audience-pleasing hybrid. You don't have to be a Prima fan to enjoy the movie's treasure trove of archival clips, but they might just make you a convert. More likely you'll realize you're more familiar with Prima than you thought. He voiced the Ape King in Disney's 1967 THE JUNGLE

BOOK; David Lee Roth covered his arrangement of "Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody" in the '80s; he wrote the jazz standard "Sing, Sing, Sing" — you may not know the name, but you've heard it dozens of times. Born and raised in New Orleans, in the heart of the city's large population of

Sicilian immigrants, Prima grew up surrounded by American jazz and Italian opera. He and his brother Leon were both musical, and Prima began gigging as a teenager, quickly perfecting a unique stage persona that was equal parts serious musical chops and a born showman's sense of how to play an

audience. The cool/goofy dynamic that defined his partnership with singer Keely Smith (his fourth wife) mixed anything-for-a-laugh antics and deadpan delivery a decade before Sonny and Cher made the combination their signature, and Prima's act holds up surprisingly well. Prima was also an

Italian-American who celebrated ethnicity at a time when most mainstream artists downplayed it, and anticipated Elvis Presley in being a white artist who sounded black. McGlynn's interviews aren't especially enlightening; everyone concurs that he was a helluva guy. But it hardly matters when

there's so much of the man himself on display.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Superficial but thoroughly engaging, Don McGlynn's documentary breezes through the life and be-bopping times of Louis Prima, whose five-decade career was rooted in a ballsy, cheerfully vulgar performing style that swirled Dixieland, jazz, swing and comic… (more)

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