TV One's series features Cooley High

Unsung Hollywood sheds light on residents of Chicago's Cabrini-Green Homes project

Carla St.Louis | 4/3/2014, 9 a.m.

Quarter parties that lead to fights and leave your mother's prized china cabinet in ruins. Gambling friends, smooth talkers and teachers who cared. Slow dancing and kissing in the dark.

They are memorable scenes from the classic film, Cooley High, directed by Michael Schultz. One network wants to take you down memory lane.

TV One's series Unsung Hollywood is airing an episode on Wednesday, April 2 at 9 pm CT that focuses on the Chicago-centric film that explores the adventures and relationships of "Preach" and "Cochise," two Black high school students at Edwin G. Cooley High School. Both residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green Homes in Chicago, the duos' carefree lives take a turn for the worse through several twists of fate including violent carjacking, drugs, playing hookey, teaching some young new "turkeys" about basketball and premarital sex during the 1960s.

TV One's senior vice president of programming and production, D'Angela Proctor, said Cooley High was selected because of its significance to Black cinema.

"Unsung Hollywood recounts the achievements of some of the most beloved and groundbreaking artists in the African-American creative community, all of whom have devoted their lives to making their mark in movies, TV, comedy and sports, and in the process, have helped elevate and transform the entertainment experience," said Proctor.

In the episode, actor Glynn Turman, who played Leroy "Preach" Jackson and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who played Richard "Cochise" Morris, go back on-location in Chicago and share a behind-the-scenes glimpse into some of their favorite scenes from the legendary film.

"Cooley High has proven to be a landmark film that [our] community has held up with love, respect and pride," said Turman.

In 1975, this coming-of-age film about friends changed the game for Black films in an era when Blaxploitation was king, daring to depict authentic, Black life in the projects without leaning on sensational stereotypes. The film captured the complexity of these individuals’ daily life with humor, friendship, solidarity and love balancing out the violence and dead ends.

The episode also features interviews with director Michael Schultz and many other actors and crew members who helped make this ground-breaking film a reality.

Cooley High's soundtrack features the popular Motown hit single, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by G.C. Cameron. It was covered in 1991 by Boyz II Men on the group's first LP, named Cooleyhighharmony in honor of the film, and subsequently became the go-to song at Black funerals.