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‘Cooley High’ Writer and Cast Reflect on the Film 40 Years Later

'Cooley High' Writer and Cast Reflect on the Film 40 Years Later

In honor of Black History Month and the film’s 40th
anniversary, the WGA Committee of Black Writers hosted an intimate screening of
“Cooley High” last night in Los Angeles.

The classic story about a group of Chicago teens in the
1960s remained a fan favorite over the years for its heartfelt nostalgia
and as Sergio pointed out, the movie recently
came to Blu Ray
.

Screening attendees got a rare chance to hear about the
making of the film from “Cooley High” screenwriter Eric Monte and
cast members Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who played Preach and
Cochise, in a post-screening conversation moderated fittingly by
“Hollywood Shuffle” director Robert Townsend.

Said Turman, “The film is authentic because it’s from
Eric’s actual life, and somehow it was also my story, and the story of so many
other young men.”

Monte suffered
a number of setbacks
after being one of the most influential writers in
Hollywood in the 1970s, as the mind behind shows such as “Good
Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “All in the Family,” and
“Cooley High” spinoff “What’s Happening!!” His grand
falling out with producer Norman Lear and subsequent blacklisting from
Hollywood still serve as a cautionary tale to those seeking to navigate the
entertainment business.

He refers to “Cooley High” as a “movie
without a plot,” which was informed by his own experiences coming of age
in the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago.

He said of the film, “They
had already started shooting ‘Cooley High’ when I received a call [from an executive]
who said, ‘Eric we have a problem… The script has no plot!’  I hung up the phone and went back to
work. I knew it would be a hit and they had already spent money on it.  I also knew Cooley High would be the
first hit movie without a plot!”

Hilton-Jacobs added, “Eric Monte found a way with this
movie to give us a slice of life.”

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