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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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Comments

Renee

Talk about nostalgia,this was for me, "so hard to say good-bye to yesterday…eeheeeee. Best black film ever made. Would have loved to attend this event. As a Black female, I too, struggle to find a way in… A Life Soror in which I continue writing, to become a part of!

Bob Brooks

My father went there when it was Washburne Trade School! A lot of history in that building.

Robert O'Brien

Cooly High touched many souls, but for me it hit home. By Brother was senselessly killed in 1964 at the tender age of sixteen! Hits home for real!

Christopher Holmes

Would have been nice to read of comments of all the participants. And besides being plotless was it director-less?

James Lewis

I saw the movie in L.A. in 1975. The young lady with me cried when the character Cochise was kicked to death by Stone and his boys. She also cried for Preach who had to decide to leave town and gave up his young lady, but did come anonymously to Cochise’s funeral. And obviously the character of Roger in "What’s Happening" is a clone of Preach. Very good movie throughout.

getthesenets

@Steph, didn’t you watch the3 end of the film? Lynn became a teacher in ATL..ehhehehhe

Stephanie

Does anyone know where Pansy (Lynn) Carridine is and how is she doing???

getthesenets

ok..could not find the vibe reunion but on yt, under the title master peace theatre o1-15-13 there’s video of a radio/podcast interview by Obba Babatunde with Preach,Cochise and Cochise’s uncle

M CREW LITE FORMALLY KNOWN AS MIKE

I agree with Kid Video, there should have been a camera in there to record it. Who knows when we will get Robert Townsend, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Eric Monte, and Glynn Turman together again??!! This is history here, a missed opportunity!

Vance

This is the brilliance of Black writers who are poor and had to improvise with everything they did in life simply because they were dealt a stacked deck (a bad hand). Eric Monte’ just telling you how it was growing up in the ghetto of Chicago was enough to captivate you. So who the hell needs a plot when you have the wonderful heartfelt true stories that were told in Cooley High!! The best honest film ever done!! Kudo’s Mr. Monte and the young actors who brought it home not to mention the amazing sound track. "It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday"…God put that together… I saw that movie when I was about 7 or 8 yrs old at the neighborhood theater in West Philly and the impact still hits the same. I sit and look at young kids watch the movie today, they’re captivated…loved it and found it entertaining.

Vance

This is the brilliance of Black writers who are poor and had to improvise with everything they did in life simply because they were dealt a stacked deck (a bad hand). Eric Monte’ just telling you how it was growing up in the ghetto of Chicago was enough to captivate you. So who the hell needs a plot when you have the wonderful heartfelt true stories that were told in Cooley High!! The best honest film ever done!! Kudo’s Mr. Monte and the you actors who brought it home not mention the amazing sound track. "It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday"…God put that together…

getthesenets

when sinbad hosted the vibe talkshow….they had a full reunion of the main cast should be on youtube

Curtis Henry

Born and raised in Trinidad West Indies, I remember seeing this film as a child when it came out in the seventies. What was most shocking for me was to see kids going to school without uniforms, which was the norm in my country. This film along with a few others like Cornbread, Earl and Me, laid the foundation for me wanting to become a filmmaker, which I am today. Thanks guys.

Junebug

Neither of these articles mention the fact that Robert Townsend appears in Cooley High himself.

Dorian Wright

This is probably one of the greatest black films ever made.

kid video

Should have been a video camera there. This could be the last time they appear all together.
Major Fail.

ChgoSista

Man oh man oh man I wish I could’ve attended this event!

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