Coming to America

Be sure to take On Location Tours’ TCM Classic Film Tour, which explores classic film locations on a three-hour guided bus tour of iconic films spanning from the 1940s through the 1980s.  On this private tour, you’ll get to see sites from classic films like Coming to America, and many others.

In this 80’s classic, Prince Akeem, Prince of Zamunda, is turning twenty-one and is expected to marry a woman he does not know, chosen for him by his family.  Unhappy with this, he breaks with tradition and travels to America with his servant to find his true love, exclaiming “What better place to find a Queen than the city of Queens?”

Working at a fast food restaurant (“McDowell’s,” the restaurateur’s attempt to copy McDonald’s) in Queens, Akeem falls in love with Lisa, the daughter of his boss, Mr. McDowell.  Much of the film centers on Akeem’s attempts to win Lisa’s hand in marriage while adjusting to life in America.

Eventually, the Zamundian royal family travels to the United States to retrieve their son. As a result, Lisa finally learns that Akeem is actually a prince.  Angry and confused as to why he lied to her about his status, she refuses Akeem’s marriage proposal.

Back in Zamunda, Akeem prepares against his will to marry the bride chosen by his father, who has been trained to mindlessly obey him.  At the wedding, however, it is Lisa waiting for him at the alter.

Amazingly, Eddie Murphy plays four characters in Coming to America, and this is the first of his films in which he portrays multiple characters.  He stars as Prince Akeem, Clarence, Randy Watson, and Saul.  The hilarious Brooklyn-born Eddie Murphy was writing and performing his own material by the age of 15.  He did shows at his high school, youth centers, and local bars.  Eventually, he got the chance to perform at The Comic Strip in Manhattan and was finally cast onSaturday Night Live in 1975.  The comedian is famous for many roles in movies such as Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Harlem Nights, Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle, Life, Bowfinger, Shrek, Daddy Daycare, Dreamgirls, Norbit, and Meet Dave.

Arsenio Hall, who plays Semmi, Akeem’s servant, is most famously known for his late night talk show, “The Arsenio Hall Show” during the early 90’s.  Though most of his accomplishments include television appearances like “The Real Ghostbusters” in 1987, and voices on shows like “Scooby Doo,” he has also been featured in movies such as Harlem Nights.

James Earl Jones, who plays King Jaffe Joffer, Akeem’s father, is known for his extremely low booming voice.  His extensive and impressive list of films and shows includes such movies as Star Wars, The Exorcist II, Roots, City Limits, Three Fugitives, Field of Dreams, The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, The Sandlot, Clear and Present Danger, and The Lion King.  The long list continues with television appearances on shows like Paris, Me and Mom, L.A. Law, Gabriel’s Fire, Under One Roof, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. 

On The New York TV and Movie Sites Classics Tour, you will see the famous Waldorf-Astoria, where King Jaffe Jaffer Stayed while in NYC looking for his son.  The luxurious hotel opened in 1897 and has housed many famous residents.

Another famous locale recognizable from the film is Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous Arena, in the heart of New York City. In the film, Akeem goes on a double date to a basketball game with Lisa, her sister, and Lisa’s boyfriend (and heir to the Soul Glow Fortune) Darryl Jenks.

McDowell’s Restaurant

Because of the name similarity, the film’s producers had to obtain permission from McDonald’s before using the name McDowell’s. During production in Queens, the owner of a nearby McDonald’s restaurant threatened a lawsuit, not knowing the fictional restaurant was part of a movie. The location of the restaurant is 8507 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, Queens, as specified accurately in the movie. The building now serves as a Wendy’s restaurant.

* In an effort to stay current, we are constantly updating our tours with new locations and cannot guarantee the presence of locations mentioned on our site. If you have a particular interest in locations from a specific TV show or movie, please let your tour guide know and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

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