School Daze is a 1988 American musical comedy-drama film, written and directed by Spike Lee, and starring Larry Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Based in part on Spike Lee's experiences at Atlanta's Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University, it is a story about fraternity and sorority members clashing with other students at a historically black college during homecoming weekend. It also touches upon issues of colorism, classism, political activism, hazing, female self-esteem, social mobility, and hair texture bias within the African-American community. The second feature film by Spike Lee, School Daze was released on February 12, 1988 by Columbia Pictures.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Spike Lee|
|Written by||Spike Lee|
|Music by||Bill Lee|
|Edited by||Barry Alexander Brown|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Vaughn "Dap" Dunlap (Larry Fishburne) is a politically conscious black American student at Mission College, a leading historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia whose motto is "Uplift the Race." The college administration is portrayed as inept.
Dunlap leads anti-apartheid demonstrations encouraging students and school administrators to divest from South Africa. When his buddies go into town, they find the local boys are not impressed with their activities, but think of them as privileged college boys. Open conflict breaks out between the groups.
Dunlap feuds with Julian Eaves (Giancarlo Esposito) aka Dean Big Brother Almighty of Gamma Phi Gamma Fraternity, Incorporated. This group is characterized as "wannabees," as in "wannabe better than me." The fraternity brothers are preparing for a big college football weekend and Homecoming parties. Meanwhile, Dap's younger cousin, Darrell (Spike Lee), aka "Half-Pint," is a Gamma pledge.
The Gamma women's auxiliary, the Gamma Rays, who are sleek and light-skinned, confront non-Greek black co-eds, particularly over skin color and the nature of their hair. Some of the Rays use contact lens to change eye color.
- Larry Fishburne as Vaughn "Dap" Dunlap
- Giancarlo Esposito as Julian "Dean Big Brother Almighty" Eaves
- Tisha Campbell as Jane Toussaint
- Kyme as Rachel Meadows
- Joe Seneca as President Harold McPherson
- Ellen Holly as Odrie McPherson
- Art Evans as Cedar Cloud
- Ossie Davis as Coach Odom
- Bill Nunn as Grady
- James Bond III as Monroe
- Branford Marsalis as Jordan
- Edward D . Bridges as Moses
- Kadeem Hardison as Edge
- Eric Payne as Booker T.
- Spike Lee as Darrell "Half-Pint" Dunlap
- Anthony Thompkins as Doo-Doo Breath
- Darryl M. Bell as Big Brother X—Ray Vision
- Joie Lee as Lizzie Life
- Alva Rogers as Doris Witherspoon
- Paula Brown as Miriam
- Jasmine Guy as Dina
- Samuel L. Jackson as Leeds
- Roger Guenveur Smith as Yoda
- Dominic Hoffman as Mustafa
- Cinqué Lee as Buckwheat
- Kasi Lemmons as Perry
- Adrienne-Joi Johnson as Cecilia
- Guy Killum as Double Rubber
- Cylk Cozart as Big Brother Dr. Feelgood
- Rusty Cundieff as Big Brother Chucky
- Tyra Ferrell as Tasha
- Leonard L. Thomas as Big Brother General Patton
- Cassi Davis as Paula
- Erik Dellums as Slim Daddy
- Gregg Burge as Virgil Cloyd
- Kirk Taylor as Sir Nose
- Monique Mannen as Monique "Mo-Freak"
- Leslie Sykes as Miss Mission
- Tanya Lynne Lee as Tanya
- Eartha Robinson as Eartha
- Toni Ann Johnson as Muriel
- Kevin Rock as Mussolini
- Phyllis Hyman as Phyllis
Spike Lee arranged for the two groups of actors to stay in separate hotels during filming. The actors playing the "wannabees" were given better accommodations than the ones playing the "jigaboos." This favoritism contributed to tension on the set, which showed in the on-camera animosity between the two camps. (The producers used a similar tactic in filming Animal House, with similar results.) In School Daze, the method approach yielded strong results — the fight that occurs at the step show between Dap's crew and the Gammas was not in the script. On the day the scene was shot, the fight broke out between the two sides. Lee ordered the cameras to keep rolling.
Officials of Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University asked Lee to stop filming on the campuses before he completed his work because the colleges' Boards of Directors had concerns on how he was portraying the historically black colleges in the film. Lee had to finish filming at the neighboring Morris Brown College.
The film received positive reviews for its exploration of issues within the black community. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, "There is no doubt in my mind that 'School Daze,' in its own way, is one of the most honest and revealing movies I've ever seen about modern middle-class black life in America." He also noted its frank exploration of issues of discrimination within the black community related to skin tone and nature of hair. He said it was significant as a film with a "completely black orientation. All of the characters, good and bad, are black, and all of the character's references are to each other."
Kadeem Hardison, Darryl M. Bell, and Jasmine Guy became principal cast members on The Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World — a TV series about life at a historically black college. Other School Daze cast members also appeared on A Different World, including Dominic Hoffman, Tisha Campbell, Art Evans, Guy Killum and Roger Guenveur Smith.
In 2009, Alicia Keys paid homage to School Daze in the music video for her song "Teenage Love Affair". (She imitated scenes including the rally in front of the school building, the pajama party, and the scene where Tisha Campbell and her court perform at coronation.)
"Da Butt," written by Marcus Miller and Mark Stevens, and performed by the group E.U. (who appear in the film), hit number 1 on Billboard's R&B chart and number 35 on its Pop chart. The School Daze soundtrack also features the song, "Be One," written by Bill Lee and performed by Phyllis Hyman, who also appears in the film.
- "School Daze (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
- Janet Maslin, "Review: Film - School Daze, New York Times, February 12, 1988, accessed August 12, 2012
- Campbell, Tisha; Cundieff, Rusty, Nunn, Bill; Bell, Darryl M. (2005). Audio commentary for School Daze (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Ebert, Roger (February 12, 1988). "School Daze". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
- Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001. Applause Books. p. 216.
- "School Daze (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
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