|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Produced by||Steve Krantz|
|Written by||Eric Monte|
|Music by||Freddie Perren|
|Box office||$13 million|
Cooley High (1975), directed by Michael Schultz, is a Blaxploitation comedic drama that follows the narrative of high school seniors and best-friends, Leroy “Preach” Jackson (Glynn Turman) and Richard “Cochise” Morris (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs). Written by Eric Monte, and produced by American International Pictures (AIP), the film, primarily shot in Chicago, Illinois, was a major hit at the box offices, grossing in at $13,000,000 (USD). The light-hearted and entertaining storyline captivated viewers with its portrayal of carefree best-friends, and its exciting soundtrack featuring the smash hit Baby Love by The Supremes, among many other Motown hits.
Set in 1964 Chicago, best-friends Preach and Cochise are in full-swing celebrating the final weeks of their senior year at Edwin G. Cooley Vocational High School. After a day of sneaking onto city trains and buses without paying, and antagonizing animals at the local zoo, the duo binges on alcohol before heading off to a house party that ends abruptly when Cochise gets into a fight over a girl.
Having trashed the house during the scuffle, Cochise and Preach leave to go for a joyride with fellow classmates and bad boys, Stone and Robert – an act that will prove to be ill-fated, as the four are arrested at school the next day. Mr. Mason, the boys' history teacher, persuades the police to release Preach and Cochise because of their clean record, but Stone and Robert remain imprisoned due to their being repeat offenders.
When Stone and Robert are released from jail a few days later, the vengeful pair immediately hunt for Preach and Cochise. They find Cochise on a side street, corner him and beat him to a bloody pulp, and leave him for dead.
Having been notified of the attack on Cochise, Preach frantically searches the streets and finds his best friend’s lifeless body lying face down under an overpass.
Using Cochise’s untimely death as motivation, after the funeral Preach runs off to pursue his dream of becoming a renowned Hollywood poet – ultimately making him and his newfound guardian angel proud.
- Glynn Turman as Preach
- Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Cochise
- Cynthia Davis as Brenda
- Sherman Smith as Stone
- Norman Gibson as Robert
- Garrett Morris as Mr. Mason
- Corin Rogers as Pooter
- Joseph Carter Wilson as Tyrone
- Maurice Marshall as Damon
- Steven Williams as Jimmy Lee
- Christine Jones as Sandra
- Jackie Taylor as Johnny Mae
- Juanita McConnell as Martha
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".
During the 40th anniversary of the film's release, nationally syndicated news station NPR published a story that discussed some of the fondest memories that the cast and crew shared of the film's production. Actor Rick Stone, who played the character of Stone in the film, recalled how he was approached by producers of the film while playing basketball one day. The crew members were looking for realistic gang members to be a part of the cast, so after being tipped off by police, producers offered Stone and his sidekick Norman Gibson, who played the character of Robert in the film, a role in the movie.
During this interview, screenwriter Eric Monte revealed that Cochise's untimely death in the film was inspired by a childhood friend of his who had been killed in a similar manner. Furthermore, just as Preach headed to Hollywood after the death of Cochise, Monte reveals that after his friend was murdered he hitchhiked his way to the west coast where he began working for shows such as Good Times and The Jeffersons.
Unfortunately, not everyone from the film went on to live a life of success. Nearly two years after the film's release, Norman Gibson was gunned down outside of his neighborhood.
Cooley High was a critical and commercial success. Produced on a $750,000 budget, the film grossed $13 million at the domestic box office, making it one of the top 30 highest grossing films of 1975. The film holds an 82% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
Filmmaker Spike Lee included the film on his essential film list entitled List of Films All Aspiring Filmmakers Must See. The movie also ranked #23 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
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 film Cooley High.
New writers were hired, cast changes made, and a switch from one-camera to three-camera filming delivered What's Happening!! to the network, where it ran from August 5, 1976 to April 28, 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.[when?]
Release on DVD & HD
- The dime-store way to make movies-and money By Aljean Harmetz. The New York Times, (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Aug 1974: 202.
- Box Office Information for Cooley High. Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- Mankiewicz, Ben. Comments on TCM broadcast 17 October 2013
- "40 Years Later, The Cast Of 'Cooley High' Looks Back". NPR.org. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
- "Top Grossing Films of 1975". Listal.com.
- Cooley High, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- List of Films All Aspiring Filmmakers Must See. Indiewire. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- "The 50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 11, 2009.
- Closs, Wyatt (February 27, 2014). "Erykah Badu Reveals All About Her 'Lo Down Loretta Brown' Persona". Huffington Post.