The Godfather: Santo Domingo Becomes Cuba for a Day
“The Godfather” trilogy comprises without a doubt three of the most celebrated movies of all time. Almost 40 years after the release of the first Godfather movie, the plots, the characters and the memorable lines are well known to a huge fan base, many of whom were born even after Francis Ford Coppola directed the final movie.
Havana Hotel Scene
While the characters in the Godfather trilogy may have been able to ‘arrange’ pretty much anything, the movie production team did not enjoy such unlimited powers. An important scene in the original Mario Puzo book takes place at a hotel in Cuba, Havana’s mob-owned Hotel Capri, where Michael (Al Pacino) is staying while trying to build a good relationship with the pre-revolutionary government so that he may be left alone to conduct his ‘business.’ (The image above, by the way, is not the Capri, but rather the Centro Gallego, or Galician Social Club, representing the glamor and elegance of Havana in its heyday).
A Cuban Hotel in the Dominican Republic?
During the film shoot, Cuba was very much off-limits for any American production. An alternative location needed to be found. Enter El Embajador in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. This grand 1950s hotel was considered a close match to the Capri in Havana and so was chosen as the ideal substitute.
If Coppola thought that moving the Cuban scenes to the Dominican Republic would solve his problems he was soon to get another shock. On arrival in Santo Domingo, Al Pacino developed pneumonia and had to be given time to fully recuperate, delaying the shoot by a whole month. The filming was finally completed and the resulting second movie in the Godfather series is considered by many fans to be the best of the trilogy.
Dominican Republic in the Movies
The original decision to shoot the Cuban scenes in the Dominican Republic was part of a planned strategy by the owners of Paramount pictures to use the country as a cheap and attractive location. Their ambitions never really came to fruition, with the Godfather remaining to this day as the best-known international movie to have been filmed here.
Perhaps for those on a Dominican Republic vacation that’s just as well. After all, if you’re looking for a relaxing break in the sun, you don’t want to share your hotel with a movie crew – especially if they’re dressed as gangsters!
Photo | Spaceritual