A theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Produced by||Steve Krantz|
|Written by||Eric Monte|
|Music by||Freddie Perren|
Cooley High is a 1975 American film based upon the real high school located on the near north side of Chicago, produced and released by American International Pictures and written by Eric Monte (co-creator of Good Times). The film, set in 1964 Chicago, Illinois, stars Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and features a soundtrack made up primarily of 1960s Motown hits.
The film is considered a classic of black cinema, and its soundtrack featured a new Motown recording, G.C. Cameron's hit single "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday". That song was covered in 1991 by Motown act Boyz II Men on the group's first LP, named Cooleyhighharmony in honor of this film.
The story explores the adventures and relationships of Leroy "Preach" Jackson (Glynn Turman) and Richard "Cochise" Morris (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), two black high school students at Edwin G. Cooley Vocational High School, in Chicago, during the 1960s, whose carefree lives take a turn for the worse through several twists of fate, including violent carjacking friends, drugs, failing grades, and girls.
Preach and Cochise decide to cut class and go to the zoo, despite the fact that Preach has missed an entire week of school, much to the chagrin of his history teacher, Mr. Mason (Garrett Morris). Nevertheless, they gather their classmates, Pooter and Tyrone, and play hookey. On their way back, Pooter is hit with gorilla feces, Cochise teaches some young new "turkeys" how to shoot a basketball, and they meet their friend Dorothy at a diner called Martha's, where she invites them to a quarter party, while Preach slips inside to gamble with associates Stone and Robert. Cochise, knowing that Martha will throw him out for gambling, warns him, just as Brenda (Cynthia Davis) tries to get past them to get to the washroom. After she leaves to get Martha, Preach makes a dollar bet with Cochise that he will sleep with Brenda before they break up. Martha then comes with a large butcher knife, threatening Preach and throwing him out of her shop.
At Dorothy's quarter party, Tyrone flirts with Dorothy to grant the guys access to the quarter party without paying her. At the party, Pooter tries to flirt with some other girls, but they all flock to Cochise instead, leaving him alone. Preach finds and tries to serenade Brenda with poetry. Outside, Cochise flirts with and kisses a girl during a slow dance in the dark. However, hotheaded Damon, a classmate, sees him kissing the girl, who turns out to be Loretta Brown, Damon's girlfriend.
Later, Preach, Pooter, Tyrone, and Cochise are singing and drinking wine on a street corner.
Stone and Robert pull up in a Cadillac, and Preach and Cochise go along with them for a ride as they are eager to smoke with them. Preach claims to have excellent driving experience, and the others allow him to take the wheel. At an intersection, the group gets scared next to a police car, and they pull away, causing the squad car to give chase. The chase ends when they evade the police in a mostly empty warehouse, and then gently crash into the back of another vehicle. Everyone runs away from the car.
At school the next day, before their important history test, Preach and Cochise are taken out of Mr. Mason's class on a warrant for their arrest relating to grand theft auto.
Mr. Mason talks to the police, convincing them to go easier on his students, while Stone and Robert who have worse criminal records are not spared. When they eventually get out of jail, they seek vengeance on Preach and Cochise, perceiving them to be snitches.
When Stone and Robert get released, they go searching for Preach and Cochise and end up beating Cochise to death. Preach visits his grave after the ceremony once everyone has left and pours some wine on his grave and reads one of his poems out loud. After that Preach says good-bye and heads off to Hollywood and becomes a screenwriter.
- Glynn Turman as Leroy "Preach" Jackson
- Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Richard "Cochise" Morris
- Garrett Morris as Mr. Mason
- Cynthia Davis as Brenda
- Corin Rogers as Pooter
- Maurice Leon Havis as Willie
- Joseph Carter Wilson as Tyrone
- Rick Stone as Stone
- Norman Gibson as Robert
- Maurice Marshall as Damon
- Yvonne Johnson as Lillian
- Steven Williams as Jimmy Lee
- Jackie Taylor as Johnny Mae
- Christine Jones as Sandra
- Lynn Caridine as Dorothy
- Mary Larkins as Preach's Mother
Monte based the film on his experiences from attending the real-life Cooley Vocational High School (which is no longer standing) that served students from the Cabrini–Green public housing projects in Chicago. While the film was set in and around Cabrini–Green, it was primarily filmed at another Chicago-area housing project. Monte has said that he wrote the film to dispel myths about growing up in the projects: "I grew up in the Cabrini–Green housing project and I had one of the best times of my life, the most fun you can have while inhaling and exhaling".
ABC planned a television adaptation of Cooley High, but the pilot was poorly received, and Fred Silverman, the head of the network, asked the pilot's producers, TOY Productions, to redo the show as a sitcom with new characters and with a new title so as not to confuse it with Monte's Cooley High. New writers were hired, cast changes made and a switch from one-camera film to three-camera delivered What's Happening!! to the network, where it ran from 1976 to 1979. The show and the production company were then purchased by Columbia Pictures Television in 1979 and ran in syndication for a number of years.
Release on DVD & HD
In 2000, Cooley High was released on DVD. In 2010, it was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD.
- The dime-store way to make movies-and money By Aljean Harmetz. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Aug 1974: 202.
- Mitchell, John L. "Plotting His Next Big Break." Los Angeles Times. Friday April 14, 2006. A-1. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
- "The 50 Best High School Movies." Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.