One of my all-time favorite coming of age movies is "Cooley High."
Directed by Michael Schultz (("Car Wash" and "Greased Lightning") and written by Eric Monte ("All In The Family" and "What's Happening!"), this funny and dramatic movie became a box office success at a time when urban audiences were primarily flocking to see karate and blaxploitation movies.
"Cooley High" debuted in 1975 and tells the story of two Chicago high school students and their youthful and often mischievous adventures with their friends.
The film launched the careers of Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs ("Welcome Back Kotter"), Glynn Turman, ("Men of Honor" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") and "Saturday Night Live's," Garrett Morris.
Jacobs is absolutely sensational in the lead role of Larry "Cochise" Jackson, Cooley Vocational High School's young and promising basketball player. Turman plays Robert "Preach" Morris, Cochise's studious best friend and he also ignites the screen. Even Morris gives a stirring and memorable performance as Mr. Mason, the school's history teacher.
"I was 21-years-old when I got the part for "Cooley High" Jacobs told N2Entertainment.net during a recent telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
"When I first saw the script, I turned to Glynn (Turman) and laughed because it was like we both knew that all we had to do was learn the lines. We had lived this life growing up. The characters in the film were so real to us that this was just natural."
In addition to Jacobs and Turman, the film boasts a stellar supporting cast, which includes: Cynthia Davis (Brenda who plays Preach's love interest), Corin Rogers (Pooter), Maurice Leon Havis (Willie) and bad boys, Joseph Carter Wilson (Tyrone) and Sherman Smith, (Stone).
And talk about a movie soundtrack. "Cooley High" has what is arguably one of the most dynamic Motown scores you'll hear.
While some film critics have compared "Cooley High" to the movie "American Graffiti, Jacobs believes "Cooley High" has a lot more soul. He is convinced that the film resonated with audiences so well simply because of its "innocence."
"Cooley High" showcased a period that for many teens growing up was really like the last time of fun," says Jacobs. "The film has everything. "It's a movie about taking care of each other and making important life choices and decisions. There weren't a lot of black movies at the time that presented this slice of black life. It was so new and different that urban audiences embraced it wholeheartedly."
About the same time audiences had discovered Jacobs on the big screen in "Cooley High," he was also becoming a household name on the enormously popular ABC television show, "Welcome Back Kotter" where he played the famous Sweathog, Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington.
"It was an amazing string of timing for me," says Jacobs. I didn't take it lightly at all. I knew that I had something going that was good and exciting. I just wanted to savor and enjoy it."
Even today "Cooley High's" popularity continues to soar. audience who has discovered the movie.
"There's no question that the movie is a classic," says Jacobs who chuckles when people ask him if he'll do some type of "Cooley High" reunion film.
"Everybody is around to do it," adds Jacobs. "But I just don't think you can go back and try and relive that. I think that is what makes the movie so special.
"I mean, even though this was a low-budget movie, it was honest. That's what people liked about it. To try and re-do it now you'd lose that honesty and innocence."