Released 40 years ago this week (on June 25, 1975), it ought to be celebrated for its vast influence on movies, TV, and music. As a young-men-coming-of-age movie, it deserves to be mentioned alongside Fellini's "I Vitelloni," George Lucas's "American Graffiti," Barry Levinson's "Diner," and John Singleton's "Boyz N the Hood." And yet, the film and its creators have been largely forgotten, lost to history.
The story behind "Cooley High" is even more dramatic than the comedy-drama that unspooled on the screen. It's the story of Kenneth Williams, who, like protagonist Preach, left Chicago's Cabrini-Green projects with dreams of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter. Having dropped out of high school, he hitchhiked from the Windy City to Hollywood with $5 in his pocket and no connections, and for a while he supported himself selling drugs.