Cooley High (1975)


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 featuring a soundtrack made up primarily of 1960s Motown hits. The film is considered a classic of black cinema, and its soundtrack features 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. Cooley High is frequently compared favorably to American Graffiti and The Big Chill. ABC had 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 (Raj, Rerun and the rest) 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 was then purchased by Columbia Pictures and ran in syndication for a number of years. 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". This movie ranked #23 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.


The story explores the adventures and relationships of Leroy "Preach" Jackson and Richard "Cochise" Morris, two black high school students at Edwin G. Cooley High School whose carefree lives take a turn for the worse through several twists of fate.