Cooley High is a 1975 American coming-of-age/comedic drama film 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, directed by Michael Schultz 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.
|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Produced by||Steve Krantz|
|Written by||Eric Monte|
|Music by||Freddie Perren|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
|Box office||$13 million|
Set in 1964 Chicago, Preach, an aspiring playwright and Cochise, All-city basketball champion are best friends who are both celebrating the final weeks of their senior year with their classmates at Edwin G. Cooley Vocational High School on Chicago's Near-North Side. While sitting in class, Cochise sleeps while Preach comes up with the idea that Pooter, another classmate and friend would fake a nosebleed so they can get out of class. As Preach and Pooter leaves with the teacher's permission, Cochise; who's now awake, sneaks out the classroom's back door. After getting out of class, The trio meet up with another classmate who's sitting outside the school. The group then hitch a ride from school by hanging on the back of a city bus. The group end up at Lincoln Park Zoo where they spend the day stealing snacks from the concession stand and antagonizing animals.
After spending a few hours at the zoo, The group head back toward the neighborhood via train. Once back, the group show a few basketball hoops with some locals before Pooter states he needs to return to school before closing to retrieve his books. The group end up at Martha's, a local hangout where they run into another classmate on their way inside, Dorothy who is giving a "Quarter" party at her house later that evening. While inside, Preach is shooting dice with two guys from the neighborhood; Stone and Robert. During the dice game, they encounter one of Preach's classmates, Brenda who Preach shows an immediate interest in. After Preach is chased out of the hangout by the owner for gambling, The group then splits up. Cochise arrives home, where he learns via mail that he received a basketball scholarship to attend Grambling State University. The group meet up and binges on alcohol, celebrating Cochise's scholarship before heading off to Dorothy's house party. Once at the party, Preach encounters Brenda again; who has no interest in him. While the party is going on, Preach retreats to a bedroom where Brenda is and the two discuss love poems. The party ends abruptly when another classmate named Damon shows up and spots Cochise dancing with his girlfriend, Loretta; which leads to scuffle between the two.
Having trashed the house during the scuffle, The group retreat back to Martha's. While standing out front, The group; which consist of Cochise, Preach, Pooter and Tyrone encounter Stone and Robert. The pair ride up in a Cadillac car and convince Cochise and Preach to go for a joyride with them. The group then drive through the neighborhood, Downtown Chicago and Gold Coast area with Stone at the wheel. After talking, Preach convinces Stone to let him drive; which leads to attention from the police due to his bad driving. The police chase leads from downtown into a garage at Navy Pier, in which they get away from them; only to end up hitting a park car with occupants inside. After the accident, The group then flee the vehicle; Preach and Cochise running in one direction and Stone with Robert in another.
The next day, The group, Cochise, Preach, Pooter, Tyrone and another classmate then decide to go the movies but are short on cash. Preach and Cochise then approach two prostitutes, pretending to want sexual services; later stating they are actually cops. While searching and threatening to arrest them, One of the women pays $10 to Preach to be let go; while the other one notice that the police badge is a fake. After realizing their cover is blown, the two run off with the money. The group then end up at the movie theater, where they are viewing Mothra vs. Godzilla. With Cochise, Tyrone and Preach being with their girlfriends; Pooter is left venturing around the theater by himself. Upon finding a seat, He bumps into a man who gets confrontational; another man intervenes on Pooter behalf which leads to a brawl between the Disciples and Counts street gangs in the theater. The following day, Preach and Brenda spend a day together which leads to them having sex back at Preach's house. After learning that Cochise and Preach had an inside cash bet on Preach hooking up with her, Brenda leaves the house upset.
The following day at school, Cochise and Preach are arrested for being in the stolen car; charging them with Grand Theft Auto. While at the station, The pair are reunited with Stone and Robert who are also being questioned about the stolen car. 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. Confused as to how they were let off the hook, Preach and Cochise leave the holding area. Thinking that Preach and Cochise placed all the blame on them, Stone and Robert; the vengeful pair immediately hunt for both of them after being released from jail a few days later. While in school, Preach learns that Mr. Mason actually got them out of jail; and stets of to look for Cochise give tell him the information. In his pursuit of looking for Cochise, Preach runs into Cochise's cousin Jimmy Lee who takes him to the apartment where his. Once there, Preach finds him with his ex-girlfriend in which Preach becomes angry and leaves.
Preach then retreats to Martha's, Spotted by Damon, he walks over to a table where Brenda is sitting and begins to apologize. While talking to Brenda, Preach overhears Damon speaking to Stone and Robert who's just walk into the hangout. As he sends Brenda out of the restaurant, urging her to meet him at the train station in 15 minutes; He tries to sneak toward the back. Preach's presence is then made known by Damon; in which Stone and Robert began taunting and chasing Preach around the restaurant. After spotting the confrontation, The hangout's owner intervene; forcing Stone and Robert out of her place with a meat cleaver while Preach is hiding in a bathroom. Preach tries to sneaks out the side door of the establishment but is spotted by the pair who is waiting for him outside. After evading them, Preach meets up with Brenda; where he learns from her that Cochise went to Martha's in search for him. Stone, Robert and Damon ultimately find Cochise on a side street, corner him, and beat him straight to a bloody pulp, leaving 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, and after the funeral, Preach runs off to pursue his dream of becoming a renowned Hollywood poet and writer – ultimately making both him and his newfound guardian angel proud.
- Glynn Turman – Leroy "Preach" Jackson
- Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs – Richard "Cochise" Morris
- Cynthia Davis – Brenda
- Sherman Smith – Stone
- Norman Gibson – Robert
- Garrett Morris – Mr. Mason
- Corin Rogers – Pooter
- Joseph Carter Wilson – Tyrone
- Maurice Marshall – Damon
- Steven Williams – Jimmy Lee
- Christine Jones – Sandra
- Jackie Taylor – Johnny Mae
- Juanita McConnell – Martha
Monte based the film on his experiences attending the real-life Cooley Vocational High School (which no longer exists; closed in 1979) that served students from the Cabrini–Green public housing project on Chicago's north side. 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".
Boyz II Men named their debut album Cooleyhighharmony which featured a version of the song It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday from the Cooley High soundtrack. The 1991 movie Boyz in the Hood was influenced by Cooley High. 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 Sherman Smith (now using the professional name 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.
The movie was filmed from October through November 1974 in Chicago, Illinois. Some scenes include other areas of Chicago such as Navy Pier and the Gold Coast area but primarily in and around the Cabrini-Green housing project on the near-north side.
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. Cooley High also inspired the CBS television show The White Shadow (November 27, 1978 to March 16, 1981), starring Ken Howard.
Release on DVD & HD and Potential remakeEdit
In 2000, Cooley High was released on DVD. In 2010, it was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD. On July 19, 2016, it was reported that MGM was developing a remake of 1975 film Cooley High, with DeVon Franklin, Common and Tony Krantz starring. Seth Rosenfeld would write the screenplay.
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- Mankiewicz, Ben. Comments on TCM broadcast 17 October 2013
- "Cooley High - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
- JET Magazine - One Spark Of Joy In Cooley High Character's Life Snuffed By Bullets - October 21, 1976
- Kashner, Sam. "How Boyz n the Hood Beat the Odds to Get Made—and Why It Matters Today". HWD. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
- "Catching Up With: The Cast of 'Cooley High' - JetMag.com". JetMag.com. 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
- "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.
- "New TOY". Broadcasting: 39. 1979-02-19.
- Closs, Wyatt (February 27, 2014). "Erykah Badu Reveals All About Her 'Lo Down Loretta Brown' Persona". Huffington Post.
- Jr, Mike Fleming (July 19, 2016). "'Cooley High' Remake For MGM, DeVon Franklin, Common & Tony Krantz". Deadline. Retrieved July 20, 2016.