Harris shared the idea with his writing partner Herschel Weingrod, who liked the concept. Harris also drew inspiration for the story from his own living situation; he lived in a rundown area near Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. He described the area in grim terms as crime-ridden, where everyone either had a gun pointed at them or had been raped.
- He concluded that this required a deeper script than would normally be developed for a comedy.
- After not working in film for more than a decade, Ameche followed Trading Places with the 1985 comedy-drama Cocoon, for which he won his first and only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
- The film was well-received critically and considered a significant commercial success, along with Flashdance and Return of the Jedi.
- Canby said that in her first major non-horror role, Curtis performed with „marvelous good humor”.
Ophelia pretending to be a European exchange student to fool Beeks was also improvised; Curtis used a mix of German attire with a Swedish accent because she could not perform a German accent. A scene that is available only in the television version is where Valentine first enters the Duke and Duke building. The cut version shows Coleman dropping off Valentine for his first day of work, then shows a smiling Valentine exiting an elevator and speaking to a receptionist. The uncut scene has Valentine entering the main hall of the building and going through a series of interactions with the same people that was nearly identical to the scene near the beginning when Winthorpe enters the building to go to work.
Brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke own a commodities brokerage firm, Duke & Duke Commodity Brokers, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Holding opposing views on the issue of nature versus nurture, they make a wager and agree to conduct an experiment—switching the lives of two people on opposite sides of the social hierarchy and observing the results. It received multiple award nominations including an Academy Award for Bernstein’s score and won two BAFTA awards for Elliott and Curtis. The film also launched or revitalized the careers of its main cast, who each appeared in several other films throughout the 1980s. In particular, Murphy became one of the highest-paid and most sought after comedians in Hollywood.
She continued, „Preston Sturges might have made a movie like Trading Places – if he’d had a little less inspiration and a lot more money.” Gary Arnold said the film was too inconsistent to be compared to those older films. Vincent Canby said that the screwball style had been updated for the „existential hipness” of the 1980s, but the film lacked the same morality tale the genre often espoused that money is not important. Instead, the characters do not dismantle or expose the corruption of the financial system, they just take revenge on the Dukes, obtaining extreme wealth in the process. Even so, he concluded the film was one of the best American comedies released in a long time.
He had used classical music in his previous films to represent the upper classes and felt that it would be fitting for the pompous elites of the financial industry. The Marriage of Figaro concerns the story of a servant who is wronged by his wealthy employer, Count Almaviva, and takes his revenge by unraveling the count’s own machinations. John Gielgud and Ronnie Barker were considered for the role of Winthorpe’s butler, Coleman.
This demand significantly inflates the price to $1.42 per pound—each future represents several pounds of FCOJ. Winthorpe and Valentine begin selling futures at this inflated price, believing it to be the peak price; the contracts will require them to supply FCOJ in April. Anticipating that the crop report will cause the value of FCOJ to rise far above $1.42, the other brokers purchase heavily from the pair. The main theme of stock trading robots is the consequences of wealth or the lack thereof. Both extremes are depicted by those living in opulent luxury and those trapped in a culture of poverty—a concept arguing that poor people adopt certain behaviors that keep them poor.
They plot to return Valentine to the streets, but have no intention of taking back Winthorpe. Valentine overhears the conversation and seeks out Winthorpe, who has attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. Valentine, Ophelia, and Winthorpe’s butler, Coleman, nurse him back to health and inform him of the experiment. Watching a television news broadcast, they learn that Beeks is transporting a secret United States Department of Agriculture report on orange crop forecasts. Winthorpe and Valentine recall large payments made to Beeks by the Dukes. They realize the Dukes will obtain the report early to corner the market on frozen concentrated orange juice.
As well as the main cast, Trading Places features Robert Curtis-Brown as Todd, Winthorpe’s romantic rival for Penelope; Alfred Drake as the Securities Exchange manager; and Jim Belushi as Harvey, a party-goer on New Year’s Eve. Winthorpe is framed as a thief, drug dealer and philanderer by Clarence Beeks, a man on the Dukes’ payroll. Winthorpe is fired from Duke & Duke, his bank accounts are frozen, he is denied entry to his Duke-owned home, and he is vilified by Penelope and his friends. He befriends Ophelia, a prostitute who helps him in exchange for a financial reward once he is exonerated to secure her own retirement. The Dukes post bail for Valentine, install him in Winthorpe’s former job, and grant him use of Winthorpe’s home.
When Winthorpe is driven to work during the film’s opening, he hums „Se vuol ballare”, an aria from The Marriage of Figaro, in which Figaro declares he will overturn the systems in place. This foreshadows Winthorpe’s eventual efforts to do the same to the Dukes. After a series of failures, Trading Places revitalized Aykroyd’s career.
116 minutesCountryUnited StatesLanguageEnglishBudget$15 millionBox office$120.6 millionTrading Places is a 1983 American comedy film directed by John Landis, with a screenplay by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod. Million five-film exclusive contract—one of the biggest deals ever with an actor at the time. The studio also agreed to finance his Eddie Murphy Productions studio. Murphy was among several young stars who emerged that year, including Matthew Broderick, Tom Cruise, and Michael Keaton, who were all in their 20s.
Valentine and Winthorpe buy at the lower price from everyone except the Dukes, fulfilling the contracts they had short-sold earlier and turning an immense profit. After the closing bell, Valentine and Winthorpe explain to the Dukes that they made a wager on whether they could get rich and make the Dukes poor at the same time, and Valentine collects $1 from Winthorpe. When the Dukes prove unable to supply the $394 million required to satisfy their margin call, the exchange manager orders their seats sold and their corporate and personal assets confiscated, effectively bankrupting them. Randolph collapses holding his chest and Mortimer shouts at the others, demanding the floor be reopened in a futile plea to recoup their losses. The now-wealthy Valentine, Winthorpe, Ophelia, and Coleman vacation on a luxurious tropical beach, while Beeks and the gorilla are loaded onto a ship bound for Africa.
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In the years since its release, the film has been reassessed both positively and negatively. It has been praised as one of the greatest comedy films and Christmas films ever made, but retrospective assessments have criticized its use of racial jokes and language. In 2010, the film was referenced in Congressional testimony concerning the reform of the commodities trading market designed to prevent the insider trading demonstrated in Trading Places. In 1988, Bellamy and Ameche reprised their characters for Murphy’s comedy film Coming to America.
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It just doesn’t seem to be considered by the mainstream to be in the same league as, say, „Beverly Hills Cop” or „Coming to America” when talking about Eddie Murphy’s movies, but the fact is that this is hands down his funniest part ever. In the early 1980s, writer Timothy Harris often played tennis against two wealthy, but frugal brothers who regularly engaged in a competitive rivalry and betting. Following one session, Harris returned home exasperated with the pair’s conflict and concluded that they were „awful” people. The situation gave him the idea of two brothers betting over nature versus nurture in terms of human ability.
The novel follows the lives of a prince and a beggar who use their uncanny resemblance to each other to switch places temporarily; the prince takes on a life of poverty and misery while the pauper enjoys the lavish luxuries of royal life. The Prince and the Pauper is seen as a classic tale of American literature; Trading Places adds a twist by casting an African-American as the pauper raised up in status, playing on fears of black usurpation and appropriation. The film has also been compared to Twain’s 1893 short story The Million Pound Bank Note, in which two brothers bet on the outcome of giving an impoverished person an unusable million-pound bank-note. The choice to use Mozart’s opera buffa The Marriage of Figaro also adds meaning. The opera tells the tale of a servant, Figaro, who foils the plans of his wealthy employer to steal his fiancée.
Bellamy and Ameche reprised their Duke characters for Murphy’s 1988 film Coming to America. Murphy portrays the affluent Prince Akeem who hands the now-homeless brothers a large sum of cash. Of the two films, Murphy has said that while he „loves” Trading Places, he prefers Coming to America because it allowed him to portray multiple characters. The 2021 sequel Coming 2 America also references the Dukes, revealing they used Akeem’s donation to rebuild their business. Variety noted that the supporting cast in Bellamy, Ameche, Elliott and Curtis were essential to the film.
David Budd said Trading Places defies expectations of racial stereotypes. Randolph’s attempts to prove nurture wins over nature demonstrates that Valentine, given the same advantages as Winthorpe, is just as capable, and leaves behind the negative aspects of his former, unfair life. Hernan Vera and Andrew Gordon argue racial stereotypes are enabled with the permission of the only black main character.
Maslin agreed that the film was too enamored with the wealthy institutions it satirized to provide a true criticism of the system and its failings. The film’s use of the word „nigger”, said during Mortimer’s statement that he will never allow Valentine to run his family business, is sometimes censored in TV broadcasts. Todd Larkins Williams, director of the 2004 documentary The N-Word, said that it is a critical scene that should not be censored. He considered it dangerous to pretend a word never existed as in turn other negative events could also be ignored.
An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes. Reviewers agreed that the film featured Aykroyd’s best performance to date. People said that if audiences had given up on Aykroyd following the failures of Neighbors and Doctor Detroit , his career was revitalized by Trading Places. Canby said that Aykroyd gave a more consistent performance than in his previous roles. He said that Aykroyd had demonstrated that his success was not dependent upon his partnership with John Belushi.