Cooley High

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For the high school in Detroit, Michigan, see Cooley High School. For the high school in Chicago, Illinois, see Cooley Vocational High School.
Cooley High
Theatrical poster
Directed by Michael Schultz
Produced by Steve Krantz
Written by Eric Monte
Starring Glynn Turman
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs
Music by Freddie Perren
Distributed by AIP
Release dates
  • June 25, 1975 (1975-06-25)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $750,000[1]

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, Illinois, during the 1960s. Their carefree lives take a turn for the worse through several twists of fate, including a 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. Cochise got a basketball scholarship from college.

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. A fight between Damon and Cochise ensues breaking Dorothy's nightstand.

Later, Preach, Pooter, Tyrone, and Cochise are singing and drinking wine on a street corner.They go into a lounge until they see Jimmy Lee. Jimmy Lee cons and swindles a man for his money for him to see women inside the apartment building.

Stone and Robert pull up in a white-with-black-vinyl-roof Cadillac Coupe de Ville, 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; they pull away, causing the squad car to give chase. The chase ends when they evade the police in a mostly empty warehouse; then gently crash into the back of another vehicle. Everyone runs away from the car. Preach and Cochise stick up two prostitutes for money to go to the movies. The same day Preach, Cochise, Tyrone, and Pooter were at the movie theater watching Godzilla when the street gang called The Disciples start a fight inside the movie theater, breaking the movie screen.

The next day at school, before their important history test, the police take Preach and Cochise out of Mr. Mason's class on a warrant for their arrest for grand theft auto. The police interrogate Preach and Cochise about the incident.

Mr. Mason talks to the police, convincing them not to jail his students who didn't steal the car; while Stone and Robert who did are jailed and stand trial. When Preach and Cochise eventually get released, Stone and Robert seek revenge on Preach and Cochise, perceiving them to be rats/snitches. Tyrone,Willie,and Damon blame Preach and Cochise for snitching on Stone and Robert. Preach's mother comes down on him for getting arrested and for having Brenda in his bedroom.

Stone, Robert and Damon go searching for Preach and Cochise and end up beating Cochise to death. Preach visits his grave after the ceremony once everyone has left, pours some liquor on his grave and reads one of his poems out loud. After that Preach says good-bye, heads off to Hollywood and becomes a screenwriter.

Stone and Robert both got killed during a gas station holdup; Damon became a sergeant in the U.S. Army stationed in Europe; Tyrone got killed during an outbreak of racial violence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago; Brenda got married with three children and became a librarian in Atlanta, Georgia; and, Pooter became a factory worker in Muncie, Indiana.


  • 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
  • Robert Townsend as Basketball Player in gym (uncredited)


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 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".

In Chicago on September 29, 1976 actor Norman Gibson was shot and killed by two men while standing on a street corner watching during a dice game. He was 25 years old.



This movie ranked #23 on Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[3]

Television adaptation[edit]

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?]

Cooley High also inspired the CBS television show The White Shadow (November 27, 1978 to March 16, 1981), starring Ken Howard.[4]

Release on DVD & HD[edit]

In 2000, Cooley High was released on DVD.[citation needed] In 2010, it was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Mitchell, John L. (April 14, 2006). "Plotting His Next Big Break". Los Angeles Times. p. A-1. Retrieved February 11, 2009. 
  3. ^ "The 50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 11, 2009. 
  4. ^ Closs, Wyatt (February 27, 2014). "Erykah Badu Reveals All About Her 'Lo Down Loretta Brown' Persona". Huffington Post. 

External links[edit]