Classic Cinema # 31: Cooley High (1975) – Jason S. Lockard

This month, we continue our look at another great soul cinema films of yesteryear. This month’s film Cooley High and the star of the month Lawrence Hilton Jacobs.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was born September 4, 1953 in New York City, New York the fifth of nine children to West Indian parents Hilton and Clothilda Jacobs. Lawrence began his acting career in the summer of ’69. He studied at the world famous Negro Ensemble Company and Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble.

In 1975 just a short time after beginning; Lawrence would land the role he would be remembered for, for the rest of his life Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington in ABC’s hit comedy series Welcome Back, Kotter. An in this Year Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs would co-star in our film of the month Cooley High!

Cooley High was written by Eric Monte who co-created Good Times. Set in 1964’s Chicago. The film is based on his experience of attending the real-life Cooley Vocational High School which no longer stands.

Cooley High follows Leroy "Preach" Jackson [Glynn Turman] a kid with big dreams of being a writer and Richard "Cochise" Morris [Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs] a basketball star on his way to college, whose carefree lives have them cutting class, crashing parties and hustling hustlers.

One day they decide to take an innocent joy ride the only problem this makes them the target of two rough hoods. Cooley High a good movie is made even better by a great soundtrack from Motown Records. Even with the period’s sound track, urban landscape, wardrobe and slang…it still doesn’t feel dated. This is a timeless classic.

Cooley High is considered by many as the black "American Graffiti". ABC seeing the success of the film planned to adapted Cooley High to television, but the pilot was poorly received and asked to redo the show as a sitcom with New Characters, thus What’s Happening!! Was born with Raj, Rerun and the rest.

Just two years after landing the role that would define him. He would land a role in the epic mini-series Roots. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was more or less typecast, but he still had a very successful career on stage, screen and TV and even wrote many screenplay. He would appear in great TV shows such as Fame, Simon and Simon, Hill Street Blues, Alien Nation, The Redd Foxx Show, The Wayans Bros., Sliders and would also play Joe Jackson in the TV Movie The Jacksons: An American Dream. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs is still working to this day and every time he does you can see how gifted an actor he really is.

Until next time when we conclude our look back at Soul Cinema; this is Jason S. Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good movie, check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Mild Violence
Audience: May Not be suitable for children
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
Length: 1 hr. 45 min.
Released: 1975
Our Rating: B+