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The other day I caught the last 20 minutes or so of “Cooley High” on a cable channel called Bounce. It’s not on very often, but it is a terrific movie. It had been several years since I had seen it. The 1975 release is about the lives of friends in 1964 who attended Cooley Vocational High School on the near north side of Chicago, which actually existed, and lived in the Cabrini-Green housing project.
It was filmed in Chicago and starred Glynn Thurman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Garrett Morris. The movie came out just before Hilton-Jacobs joined the cast of “Welcome Back Kotter” and Morris became one of the original cast members of “Saturday Night Live.”
“Cooley High” was written by Eric Monte, based on his own experiences at Cooley High School, and he later went on to co-created the CBS television show “Good Times.”
Watch the movie got me thinking about movies based in Chicago and or filmed here. There are many and I like a lot of them. But these are my top 3 favorites.
“The Blues Brothers” — I remember the Friday this movie came out during the summer of 1980. It was such a huge deal if you lived in the Chicago area and you needed to get to the theater early if you wanted a seat the day it opened. Everyone knows the story. “Joliet Jake” Blues (John Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) get their band back together to raise money to save the orphanage they were raised in. It had an all-star cast, some great music and it was like a travelogue for Chicago. The famous chase scene through the shopping center actually happened in the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey. Scenes were filmed all over Chicago and in the suburbs. The website bluesbrotherscentral.com has some great information on all the filming sites.
“Running Scared” – This 1986 action comedy isn’t shown on TV much anymore, so streaming or a DVD is your best bet. Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines play a pair of Chicago police detectives who want to retire and own a bar in Key West, Florida. But first, they need to stop drug kingpin Jimmy Smits. Again, like “The Blues Brothers” scenes were filmed all over Chicago, from O’Hare to Lake Shore Drive. And there’s a car chase on a CTA elevated platform. Yes, a car chase. And there’s a big gun battle at the end in the Thompson Center. Hines’ character, or rather a stuntman, repels from the top of the building all the way to the bottom.
“The Untouchables” – Director Brian De Palma gave a stylish version of Chicago in the 1920s as Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) goes after Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Who can forget the showdown to keep Capone’s accountant alive in Union Station? Frank Nitti was thrown off the roof of the Chicago Cultural Center by Ness and the movie’s final scene was filmed on South LaSalle St. For a complete rundown of locations, visit movie-locations.com. Sean Connery got a well-deserved Oscar for his portrayal of police officer Jimmy Malone, who assists Ness. “You want to get Capone? This is how you get Capone? He pulls a knife. You pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital. You send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”
I did that from memory. : )