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The Godfather in Cuba

In my continued interest in Cuba, I picked up The Godfather I & II, as I knew Cuba would be represented. These films were shot over 40 years ago. All the leads are famous names and got their big breaks in the Godfather series. Al Pacino is just a kid in G1 and does a great job, really growing and changing as events thrust him into leading the family. James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Robert DeNiro are all fabulous, and of these three, only Duvall seemed to break out of gangster type-casting.  Diane Keaton seems an odd choice for Michael's wife, but she was to look different and did. (Also, I wonder if she had her teeth fixed before continuing her career.)

Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic stood in for Havana, with the Embajador Hotel subbing for the Capri, where the big Mafia meetings took place. The street scenes in the movie remind me of what Havana looked like this past January when we were there. Same old cars, crumbling down old buildings, mid-century modern hotels, people all over the place. Some things don't change.

If you have not yet read Havana Nocturne, get on it. Author T  J English did his research into the mafia and its role in creating a Caribbean playground, filled with nightclubs, casinos, and dancing girls. But what they were really looking for, and were successful in for many years, was their own private banking system with no regulations but their own. President Batista is featured in the movie, including a scene when he sits at a boardroom table welcoming heads of US corporations and business ventures like United Fruit, ITT, and Michael Corleone representing 'tourism interests.' The president of ITT gives  Batista the gift of a solid gold telephone. Anyone who visits the former presidential palace these days can see the same phone. It sits in his office, the one Batista fled through a secret doorway on the day an armed student group came to the palace to assassinate him. In GF2, Batista is seen addressing a ballroom full of elegantly dressed revelers, saying his goodbye before fleeing the island (on a plane full of cash) to exile in the DR, on New Years Eve 1958. The rebels then took the streets, thus ending the mafia reign, and changing Cuba forever.