Coming to America (1988)

R | 116 mins | Comedy | 29 June 1988

Director:

John Landis

Cinematographer:

Woody Omens

Production Designer:

Richard MacDonald

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

       Several contemporary sources, including the 10 Feb 1988 Var, referred to the film by its working title Quest, while a 3 Jul 1988 Long Beach Press-Telegram article cited Zamunda Project as an earlier working title.
       Based on the success of Eddie Murphy’s starring vehicle, Beverly Hills Cop II (1987, see entry), a 26 Aug 1987 DV article announced Paramount Pictures had completely revised its contract with Murphy for the second time since Oct 1984, granting the actor an “open-ended, exclusive five-picture deal extending into the 1990s,” in which he would be paid a salary of nearly $16 million on each film.
       An 18 Sep 1987 LAHExam news item announced that John Landis was in negotiations to direct; according to an 18 Jul 1988 People item, Landis was handpicked by Murphy. The pair had previously worked together on Trading Places (1983, see entry), which was inspired by 1930s social comedies. Similarly, Landis modeled Coming to America after 1930s romantic comedies, as stated in a 25 Feb 1988 DV news item and production notes in AMPAS library files. Reprising their roles from Trading Places, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy played fallen millionaire brothers, “Mortimer Duke” and “Randolph Duke,” respectively, in a scene that showed them panhandling on a New York City street, as noted in a 21 Jan 1988 HR news brief.
       Pre-production began in fall 1987, with a principal photography start date of 4 Jan 1988 in New York City, where production was plagued by “intermittent blizzards” during five weeks of filming. ... More Less

       Several contemporary sources, including the 10 Feb 1988 Var, referred to the film by its working title Quest, while a 3 Jul 1988 Long Beach Press-Telegram article cited Zamunda Project as an earlier working title.
       Based on the success of Eddie Murphy’s starring vehicle, Beverly Hills Cop II (1987, see entry), a 26 Aug 1987 DV article announced Paramount Pictures had completely revised its contract with Murphy for the second time since Oct 1984, granting the actor an “open-ended, exclusive five-picture deal extending into the 1990s,” in which he would be paid a salary of nearly $16 million on each film.
       An 18 Sep 1987 LAHExam news item announced that John Landis was in negotiations to direct; according to an 18 Jul 1988 People item, Landis was handpicked by Murphy. The pair had previously worked together on Trading Places (1983, see entry), which was inspired by 1930s social comedies. Similarly, Landis modeled Coming to America after 1930s romantic comedies, as stated in a 25 Feb 1988 DV news item and production notes in AMPAS library files. Reprising their roles from Trading Places, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy played fallen millionaire brothers, “Mortimer Duke” and “Randolph Duke,” respectively, in a scene that showed them panhandling on a New York City street, as noted in a 21 Jan 1988 HR news brief.
       Pre-production began in fall 1987, with a principal photography start date of 4 Jan 1988 in New York City, where production was plagued by “intermittent blizzards” during five weeks of filming. New York locations included an apartment exterior in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Madison Square Garden, the Van Wyck Expressway, a car wash in Queens, Brooklyn Bridge, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and a Wendy’s fast food restaurant on Queens Boulevard that doubled as “McDowell’s Restaurant.” According to the Aug 1988 issue of AmCin, the brown-tinted windows that wrapped around three sides of the Wendy’s restaurant were replaced with neutral density plastic for filming. The subway scene between Murphy’s “Prince Akeem” and Shari Headley’s “Lisa McDowell” took place on a rented “four-car train on the IND line,” which operated on unused tracks at Brooklyn’s Hoyt-Shermerhorn station, as stated in production notes.
       The 5 Feb 1988 Back Stage noted that filming in New York City would be completed that week, at which time production moved to Los Angeles, CA. There, shooting took place on Stage 18 at Paramount Pictures studios, as noted in the 25 Feb 1988 DV, where Prince Akeem’s palace, bedroom, bath and dressing rooms were built. According to DV, the production was on schedule and budget, with production costing roughly $30 million.
       Murphy and his co-star Arsenio Hall played multiple cameo roles, undergoing “three to four-hour make-up sessions” for their various cameo characters. During pre-production, make-up artist Rick Baker made “life casts” of the actors’ faces, then constructed clay facial sculptures onto which he molded foam rubber appliances that the actors wore, in addition to hand-woven hair, eyebrow, and mustache pieces. Over 500 costumes were designed by Deborah Nadoolman, who was inspired by the early 1950s “new look” of fashion designer Christian Dior, as well as everyday styles from Ivory Coast, Gambia, and Senegal. Jewelry was created by Katherine Post, a costume jeweler, in Thailand. For the design of Zamunda’s royal palace, Landis took inspiration from England’s Brighton Pavilion and Henri Rousseau’s 19th century jungle paintings.
       Principal photography lasted eighty-three days. Editing began while filming was underway, and six weeks of post-production were scheduled.
       According to news items in the 7 Jun 1988 LAHExam and 18 Jul 1988 People, Murphy’s relationship with Landis soured on set, and the actor publicly stated he would not work with Landis again. However, the actor and director later reteamed on 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III (see entry).
       The film opened to largely negative reviews, with many critics complaining that Murphy’s talents had been wasted on bland material. Regardless, the film took in $31 million in opening week box-office receipts, setting a record as the highest-grossing non-sequel to that time, according to a 7 Jul 1988 WSJ article.
       Actress Shari Headley was chosen from over 1,000 candidates to make her feature film acting debut as Lisa McDowell.
       Several lawsuits arose after the film’s release, as noted in a 19 Dec 1989 HR article. Citing “breach of contract,” humorist and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald and his producing partner, Alain Bernheim, sued Paramount Pictures for $5 million, claiming the studio optioned Buchwald’s story, King for a Day, in 1983 and later used it as the basis for Coming to America, despite dropping Buchwald’s project. Although Warner Bros. subsequently optioned King for a Day, the studio also dropped the project when Paramount announced plans for Coming to America, which was strikingly similar to Buchwald’s story. King for a Day was described by HR as follows: “A pampered African king comes to America to trade oil rights for arms, is desposed in his absence and forced to take a job with a caterer. He falls in love and eventually returns to Africa and regains his throne.” A memo written by Paramount executive David Kirkpatrick referred to King for a Day as one of two potential projects for Murphy’s follow-up to Beverly Hills Cop (1984, see entry). The legal battle lasted seven years. According to a 13 Sep 1995 LAT article, Buchwald and Bernheim were eventually rewarded $825,000, after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harvey A. Schneider found that Coming to America was inspired by King for a Day. Schneider also stated that Paramount had denied Buchwald and Bernheim net profits and royalties based on “an ‘unconscionable’ formula” that reflected a net loss on the film despite worldwide box-office receipts reaching approximately $350 million, as stated in a 10 Jan 1990 LAT item. The protracted lawsuit cost both sides an estimated $12 million.
       In addition to Buchwald, Lassine Ousseni, a self-proclaimed African prince, filed a complaint against Murphy and Paramount Pictures, as reported in 9 Aug 1989 DV and 11 Aug 1989 HR news items. The complaint stated Ousseni presented a story idea to Murphy about an African prince coming to America in search of love, with the agreement that the actor would not use his idea without consent or “reasonable payments.” A 25 Nov 1988 LAHExam news item had previously reported that Shelby M. Gregory, who claimed Ousseni hired him to write the treatment “Toto, the African Prince” that Ousseni submitted to Murphy, was suing Paramount for $10 million. A 6 Jan 1989 HR article also reported a $40 million lawsuit filed by Laurence Armour, a Memphis, TN-based writer who claimed Murphy stole the idea for Coming to America from his screenplay, The Cannibal, in which an African prince comes to America and discovers his taste for human flesh. While the outcome of Ousseni’s complaint could not be determined, the courts ruled in favor of Paramount and Murphy on the lawsuits filed by both Gregory and Armour.
       A 27 Nov 1988 LAT news item stated that a television series based on Coming to America was expected to air on CBS in spring 1989. However, according to a 3 Jul 1989 USA Today item, only the pilot episode aired on 4 Jul 1989, as part of CBS Summer Playhouse, an anthology series featuring failed pilots.
      End credits include “Thanks” to the following organizations and individuals: McDonald’s Corporation; The Waldorf Astoria Hotel; Kathryn Post Jewelry; WENCO; R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company; New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting; New York City Police Department, Motion Picture and Television Unit; The Zamundan Film Commission; Sharon Dolin; Steve Bedell; Baba Olatunji; Richard Hilton; Budd Tunick; Nestor Abascal; Rachel Landis; and Max Landis.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
[Long Beach] Press-Telegram
3 Jul 1988
Section A, p. 2.
American Cinematographer
Aug 1988.
---
Back Stage
5 Feb 1988.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1987
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1988.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1988
p. 3, 58.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1989
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1990
p. 6, 50.
LAHExam
18 Sep 1987.
---
LAHExam
17 Jun 1988.
---
LAHExam
25 Nov 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jan 1990
Section A, p. 1, 21.
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1995
Section D, p. 2, 11.
New York Times
29 Jun 1988
Section C, p. 20.
People
18 Jul 1988.
---
Variety
10 Feb 1988.
---
Variety
29 Jun 1988
p. 13.
WSJ
7 Jul 1988.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Dancers:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
An Eddie Murphy Production
A Landis/Folsey Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr, LA
Unit prod mgr, NY
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir, Los Angeles
2d 2d asst dir, Los Angeles
DGA trainee, Los Angeles
DGA trainee, New York
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op, Los Angeles
Cam op, Los Angeles
1st asst cam, Los Angeles
1st asst cam, Los Angeles
2d asst cam, Los Angeles
2d asst cam, Los Angeles
Still photog, Los Angeles
Chief lighting tech, Los Angeles
Asst chief lighting tech, Los Angeles
Asst chief lighting tech, Los Angeles
Chief rigging elec, Los Angeles
Chief rigging elec, Los Angeles
1st company grip, Los Angeles
2d company grip, Los Angeles
Dolly grip, Los Angeles
Dolly grip, Los Angeles
2d cam op, New York
Cam asst, New York
Cam asst, New York
Cam asst, New York
Cam asst, New York
Still photog, New York
Chief lighting tech, New York
Asst chief lighting tech, New York
Elec, New York
Elec, New York
Elec, New York
Generator op, New York
1st company grip, New York
2d company grip, New York
Grip, New York
Grip, New York
Grip, New York
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir, Los Angeles
Asst art dir, Los Angeles
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed, Los Angeles
Asst ed, Los Angeles
Apprentice ed, Los Angeles
Negative cutting, Los Angeles
N.Y. ed, New York
Asst ed, New York
Asst ed, New York
SET DECORATORS
Set des, Los Angeles
Set des, Los Angeles
Set des, Los Angeles
Set des, Los Angeles
Set des, Los Angeles
Set dec, Los Angeles
Lead person, Los Angeles
Swing gang, Los Angeles
Swing gang, Los Angeles
Swing gang, Los Angeles
Swing gang, Los Angeles
Prop master, Los Angeles
Asst prop master, Los Angeles
Asst prop master, Los Angeles
Asst prop master, Los Angeles
Const coord, Los Angeles
Const foreperson, Los Angeles
Paint foreperson, Los Angeles
Prod painter, Los Angeles
Greens, Los Angeles
Set dec, New York
Lead person, New York
Set dresser, New York
Set dresser, New York
Set dresser, New York
Set dresser, New York
Set dresser, New York
Scenic artist, New York
COSTUMES
Asst cost des, Los Angeles
Cost supv, Los Angeles
Men's key costumer, Los Angeles
Women's key costumer, Los Angeles
Costumer, Los Angeles
Costumer, Los Angeles
Costumer, Los Angeles
Ward supv, New York
Ward, New York
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus ed, Los Angeles
Mus scoring mixer, Los Angeles
Orch, Los Angeles
Addl orch, Los Angeles
Mus rec at, Los Angeles
SOUND
Sd mixer, Los Angeles
Boom op, Los Angeles
Utility/Cable, Los Angeles
Supv ADR ed, Los Angeles
Asst ADR ed
ADR group, Los Angeles
Re-rec at, Los Angeles
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles
Supv sd ed, Los Angeles
Supv sd ed, Los Angeles
Supv sd ed, Los Angeles
Sd ed, Los Angeles
Sd ed, Los Angeles
Sd ed, Los Angeles
Sd ed, Los Angeles
Asst sd ed, Los Angeles
Asst sd ed, Los Angeles
Sd processed by, Los Angeles
Foley mixer, Los Angeles
Foley, Los Angeles
Foley, Los Angeles
Sd mixer, New York
Boom op, New York
Sd rec, New York
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec eff supv, Los Angeles
Matte artist, Los Angeles
Matte artist, Los Angeles
Matte artist, Los Angeles
Matte photog, Los Angeles
Matte photog, Los Angeles
Matte photog, Los Angeles
Matte anim, Los Angeles
Matte line-up, Los Angeles
Matte spec rigging, Los Angeles
Matte spec rigging, Los Angeles
Main title lettering, Los Angeles
Chief modelmaker, Los Angeles
Model photog, Los Angeles
Opticals by, Los Angeles
DANCE
Choreog
Asst choreog, Los Angeles
Asst choreog, Los Angeles
MAKEUP
Spec makeup
Head make-up artist, Los Angeles
Asst make-up, Los Angeles
Asst make-up, Los Angeles
Body make-up, Los Angeles
Head hairstylist, Los Angeles
Asst hairstylist, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Spec make-up, Los Angeles
Make-up, New York
Hairstylist, New York
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv, Los Angeles
Unit pub, Los Angeles
Prod accountant, Los Angeles
Asst prod accountant, Los Angeles
Prod financial consultant, Los Angeles
Prod coord, Los Angeles
Prod secy, Los Angeles
Casting asst, Los Angeles
Extras casting, Los Angeles
Extras casting, Los Angeles
Asst to Messrs. Wachs & Lipsky, Los Angeles
Asst to Eddie Murphy, Los Angeles
Loc mgr, Los Angeles
Craft service, Los Angeles
Animals supplied by, Los Angeles
Transportation coord, Los Angeles
Transportation capt, Los Angeles
Prod coord, New York
Asst to prods, New York
Loc mgr, New York
Asst, New York
Asst prod accountant, New York
Extras casting, New York
Transportation coord, New York
Parking coord, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord, Los Angeles
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer, Los Angeles
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Coming To America," by Nile Rodgers & Nancy Huang, performed by The System, produced by Nile Rodgers, Mic Murphy & David Frank
"Addicted To You," by Gerald Levert, Eddie Levert & Marc Gordon, performed by Levert, produced by Gerald Levert & Marc Gordon
"All Dressed Up (Ready To Hit The Town)," by Jonathan Phillip Moffett, performed by Chico De Barge, produced by Jonathan Phillip Moffett, executive producer Maurice White, Chico DeBarge performs courtesy of Motown Record Corporation
+
SONGS
"Coming To America," by Nile Rodgers & Nancy Huang, performed by The System, produced by Nile Rodgers, Mic Murphy & David Frank
"Addicted To You," by Gerald Levert, Eddie Levert & Marc Gordon, performed by Levert, produced by Gerald Levert & Marc Gordon
"All Dressed Up (Ready To Hit The Town)," by Jonathan Phillip Moffett, performed by Chico De Barge, produced by Jonathan Phillip Moffett, executive producer Maurice White, Chico DeBarge performs courtesy of Motown Record Corporation
"Better Late Than Never," by Freddie Washington & Allan Scott, performed by The Cover Girls, produced by Andy Panda, The Cover Girls perform courtesy of Fever/Sutra Records
"Come Into My Life," by Paul Chiten & Pamela Phillips-Oland, performed by Laura Branigan & Joe Esposito, produced by Arif Mardin & Robbie Buchanan
"Comin' Correct," by Dr. Dre, performed by J. J. Fad, produced by Dr. Dre, D. J. Yella & Eric (Eazy E) Wright, courtesy of Ruthless Records
"The Greatest Love Of All," by Michael Masser & Linda Creed, performed by Randy Watson & Sexual Chocolate
"I Got It," by Nile Rodgers & Nancy Huang, performed by Eddie Murphy, produced by Nile Rodgers
"I Like It Like That," by Michael Rodgers & Lloyd Tolbert, performed by Michael Rodgers, produced by Michael Rodgers & Lloyd Tolbert
"Livin' The Good Life," by Nile Rodgers & Gardner Cole, performed by Sister Sledge, produced by Nile Rodgers
"Mbube (Wimoweh)," by Solomon Linda, performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, produced by Nile Rodgers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
"Ooh Baby Baby," by William Robinson & Warren Moore, performed by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, produced by Smokey Robinson, courtesy of Motown Record Corporation
"Pride And Joy," by Norman Whitfield, Marvin Gaye & William Stevenson, performed by Marvin Gaye, produced by William Stevenson, courtesy of Motown Record Corporation
"That's The Way It Is," by Stock, Aitken, Waterman, performed by Mel & Kim, a Stock, Aitken, Waterman Production, courtesy of The Supreme Record Company Ltd.
"To Be Loved," by Tyran Carlo, Berry Gordy, Jr. & Gwendolyn Gordy, performed by Jackie Wilson, courtesy of CBS Special Projects
"You're A Wonderful One," by Edward Holland, Lamont Dozier & Brian Holland, performed by Marvin Gaye, produced by Edward Holland, Lamont Dozier & Brian Holland, courtesy of Motown Record Corporation
"Transparent," by Allee Willis & Danny Sembello, performed by Nona Hendryx, produced by Mic Murphy, David Frank & Jeff Lorber.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Quest
Zamunda Project
Release Date:
29 June 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 June 1988
Production Date:
began 4 January 1988 in New York City and Los Angeles
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
12 July 1988
Copyright Number:
PA376420
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29153
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On his twenty-first birthday, Prince Akeem is awakened by a live symphony in the royal palace of Zamunda, Africa. A trio of female servants bathe him and rose bearers strew rose petals in his path as Akeem joins his parents, King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aoleon, at breakfast. Although Akeem is supposed to meet his future wife for the first time that night, the prince admits that he is tired of his pampered lifestyle and wants to choose his own wife. When Akeem's best friend, Semmi, takes the prince to practice stick fighting, the two argue about female subservience, and Semmi disapproves of Akeem’s desire for an intellectual equal. That night, in an elaborate ceremony at the palace, Colonel Izzi offers his daughter, Imani, to Akeem for marriage. Akeem asks to speak with her privately, and discovers that she has no opinions of her own. Imani explains that she has been trained since childhood to please him. King Jaffe interrupts, and Akeem, who secretly wants to search for a wife abroad, tells his father he needs to see the world before marriage. Interpreting Akeem’s desire to travel for a need to “sow his wild oats,” Jaffe allows him to take a forty-day trip to New York City. Semmi accompanies Akeem, who mistakenly believes he will find his wife in Queens because there must be potential queens in the neighborhood. After Akeem’s luggage is stolen, he and Semmi move into a low-rent apartment against Semmi’s wishes. Desiring to blend in with working class New Yorkers, Akeem insists they buy street clothes and go to local bars. However, after meeting numerous women at a nightclub and finding them inadequate, Akeem asks ... +


On his twenty-first birthday, Prince Akeem is awakened by a live symphony in the royal palace of Zamunda, Africa. A trio of female servants bathe him and rose bearers strew rose petals in his path as Akeem joins his parents, King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aoleon, at breakfast. Although Akeem is supposed to meet his future wife for the first time that night, the prince admits that he is tired of his pampered lifestyle and wants to choose his own wife. When Akeem's best friend, Semmi, takes the prince to practice stick fighting, the two argue about female subservience, and Semmi disapproves of Akeem’s desire for an intellectual equal. That night, in an elaborate ceremony at the palace, Colonel Izzi offers his daughter, Imani, to Akeem for marriage. Akeem asks to speak with her privately, and discovers that she has no opinions of her own. Imani explains that she has been trained since childhood to please him. King Jaffe interrupts, and Akeem, who secretly wants to search for a wife abroad, tells his father he needs to see the world before marriage. Interpreting Akeem’s desire to travel for a need to “sow his wild oats,” Jaffe allows him to take a forty-day trip to New York City. Semmi accompanies Akeem, who mistakenly believes he will find his wife in Queens because there must be potential queens in the neighborhood. After Akeem’s luggage is stolen, he and Semmi move into a low-rent apartment against Semmi’s wishes. Desiring to blend in with working class New Yorkers, Akeem insists they buy street clothes and go to local bars. However, after meeting numerous women at a nightclub and finding them inadequate, Akeem asks Clarence, a local barber, where to meet women. Clarence leads him to a beauty pageant honoring Black Awareness Week. The event is sponsored by a local fast food restaurant, McDowell’s, owned by African American entrepreneur Cleo McDowell. When Cleo’s daughter, Lisa, takes the stage to solicit donations for a local park, Akeem is mesmerized by her beauty. He places a massive wad of cash into the donation basket and goes to McDowell’s the next day with Semmi. They secure minimum-wage jobs, and Akeem works to get Lisa’s attention as he mops. Lisa’s boyfriend, Darryl Jenks, heir to the inventor of Soul Glo Jheri curl cream, visits her at work and takes credit for Akeem’s anonymous donation at the pageant. Learning of Akeem's infatuation with Lisa, Clarence, the barber, encourages the prince to ingratiate himself with her father, Cleo McDowell, who mistakes the young man’s overly enthusiastic attitude as a sign that he takes drugs. When Akeem anonymously sends Lisa expensive ruby earrings, Semmi urges him to take credit for the gift so they can stop working at McDowell’s, but Akeem wants Lisa to fall in love with him despite his money. One night, Akeem goes to a basketball game with Lisa, Darryl, and Lisa’s sister, Patrice. Although Patrice tries to seduce the prince, he remains fixated on Lisa. Darryl teases Akeem about his African background, and Lisa apologizes for her boyfriend's behavior at McDowell’s the next day. Akeem impresses Lisa by quoting Nietzsche, but their conversation is interrupted by an armed robber. Using their stick fighting skills, Akeem and Semmi overpower the thief, thwarting the robbery and saving the patrons from harm. Cleo McDowell rewards the two men with an invitation to his house, but when they arrive, they realize he has brought them there to work at a party. While Semmi parks cars, Akeem tends bar inside, where Cleo announces his daughter’s engagement to Darryl. Shocked by the announcement, Lisa storms outside, and Akeem follows her. Lisa reveals that Darryl had not yet asked her to marry him, and Akeem sympathizes, saying no one should be pressured into marriage. Soon after, Lisa offers to cook dinner for Akeem at her house, but he wants to cook for her instead. However, when he takes her to his rundown apartment building, he discovers Semmi has renovated their formerly squalid apartment, and insists they go out to dinner instead. On the way to a restaurant, he gives a crumpled bag of cash to two panhandlers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke, and later, the men pass by the restaurant window to thank him. Lisa observes that people have a positive reaction to Akeem, but he insists he is only a lowly goat herder. After dinner, they dance and kiss, and Akeem sings about love as he walks home. Not wanting his daughter to struggle financially, Cleo tries to stop Lisa from going on another date with Akeem. Meanwhile, King Jaffe, Queen Aoleon, and their royal entourage arrive in New York to retrieve the prince. They go to McDowell’s in search of him, and Cleo becomes excited when he realizes Akeem is royalty. That evening, having switched apartments with his landlord so he can bring Lisa home, Akeem discovers rose petals on the steps of his apartment building and realizes his father was there. He stops Lisa from going inside and takes her back to her house. There, Cleo tries to stall Akeem, secretly calling King Jaffe to alert him of his son’s whereabouts, but Akeem leaves anyway. As Jaffe and Aoleon arrive at the McDowell home, Cleo caters to the royal couple, and Jaffe asks to speak with Lisa alone. He tells her Akeem has been promised to a Zamundan woman and only came to New York to sow his wild oats. Returning to the McDowell residence with Semmi, Akeem declares his love for Lisa, but she runs away. He chases her onto the subway, where he loudly renounces his throne and asks her to marry him. Not wanting Akeem to give up his birthright, Lisa refuses the offer. Sometime later, Akeem nervously awaits his bride as she walks down the aisle. When he lifts her veil, he is surprised to find Lisa instead of Imani, and the reunited couple shares a long kiss. After the wedding, Akeem reminds Lisa they can still give up the royal lifestyle, but she happily rejects the idea. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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