Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Landis|
|Produced by||Aaron Russo|
|Written by||Timothy Harris
Jamie Lee Curtis
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Editing by||Malcolm Campbell|
|Studio||Cinema Group Ventures
Eddie Murphy Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||118 minutes|
Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film directed by John Landis, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. It tells the story of an upper class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of an elaborate bet. Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, and Jamie Lee Curtis also star. The storyline is often called a modern take on Mark Twain's classic 19th century novel The Prince and the Pauper.
The film was written by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod and was produced by Aaron Russo. It was released to theaters in North America on June 8, 1983, where it was distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film earned over US$90 million during its theatrical run in the United States, finishing as the fourth highest earning film of the year and the second highest earning R-rated film of 1983.
Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis won the awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, respectively, at the 37th British Academy Film Awards. The film was nominated for several additional awards including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 41st Golden Globe Awards.
Duke brothers Randolph and Mortimer own a successful commodities brokerage in Philadelphia. 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 at opposite ends of the social hierarchy and observing the results. They witness an encounter between their managing director—the wealthy and educated Louis Winthorpe III, engaged to the Dukes' grand-niece Penelope—and a poor street hustler named Billy Ray Valentine. Valentine is arrested at Winthorpe's insistence because of a suspected robbery attempt. The Dukes decide to use the two men for their experiment.
Winthorpe is framed as a thief and drugs are planted on him. He is fired from his job, his bank accounts are frozen, and he is denied entry to the Duke-owned townhouse where he resides with Coleman, his butler. He befriends a prostitute named Ophelia, who allows him to stay at her apartment on the condition of receiving a reward once he re-establishes himself. Winthorpe finds himself ostracized and abandoned by Penelope and his former friends. Claiming to operate an assistance program for the underprivileged, the Dukes bail Valentine out of jail, install him in Winthorpe's position at the company, and give him use of Winthorpe's home. Valentine quickly learns the business, applying his street smarts to the job, and his behavior quickly changes from that of a con artist to a posh, upper-class businessman.
During the firm's Christmas party, Winthorpe is caught planting drugs in Valentine's desk in an attempt to get his job back. After Winthorpe flees, Valentine hides in a bathroom stall to smoke a joint he took from the desk. The Dukes enter the bathroom and, unaware of Valentine's presence, discuss the outcome of their experiment and settle their wager for $1. Valentine overhears this exchange and seeks out Winthorpe.
After Winthorpe attempts suicide, Valentine, Ophelia, and Coleman nurse him back to health and inform him of the Dukes' experiment. On television, they learn of a Clarence Beeks transporting a secret report on orange crop forecasts. Winthorpe and Valentine recall large payments made to Beeks by Duke & Duke and realize that the Dukes are planning to obtain this report to corner the market on frozen orange juice. The group agrees to disrupt the Dukes' plan as revenge.
Learning of Beeks' travel plans, the four board his train to switch the report with a forgery. Beeks uncovers their scheme and attempts to kill them. He fails and is subdued, and the group dresses him in a gorilla costume and lock him in a cage with a real gorilla. The forgery is delivered to the Dukes.
On the commodities trading floor, the Dukes commit all their holdings to buying frozen concentrated orange-juice futures contracts; other traders follow their lead, greatly inflating the price. Meanwhile, Valentine and Winthorpe begin selling futures at the inflated price. Following the broadcast of the actual crop report, showing that the orange crop will be normal that year, the price of orange juice futures plummets. Valentine and Winthorpe buy back their futures at the lower price from everyone but the Dukes, reaping a huge profit. The Dukes fail to meet the margin call at the inflated purchase price, and are left owing $394 million, with the exchange immediately seizing their corporate assets and initiating fraud charges. Valentine and Winthorpe explain to the Dukes that they made a wager on whether or not they could get rich while making the Dukes poor. Valentine collects $1 from Winthorpe, while Randolph collapses, holding his chest, and Mortimer expresses outrage to his brother about their failed plan.
Beeks and the gorilla are loaded onto a ship heading for Africa. The now wealthy Valentine, Winthorpe, Ophelia, and Coleman vacation on a tropical beach.
The storyline of Trading Places—a member of society trading places with another whose socio-economical status stands in direct contrast to his own—often draws comparisons to Mark Twain's novel The Prince and the Pauper. First published in 1881, the novel follows the lives of a prince and a beggar—both of them of adolescent age—who use their uncanny resemblance to each other as a premise to switch places temporarily; the prince takes on a life of poverty and misery while the pauper enjoys the lavish luxuries of a royal life. Parallels have also been drawn between Trading Places and Mozart's 18th century comic opera The Marriage of Figaro in which a servant (Figaro) foils the plans of his rich master who tried to steal Figaro's bride to be. The music from The Marriage of Figaro is used as a cinematic narrative in the film when the viewers are introduced to the daily routine of protagonist Louis Winthorpe's privileged life with the opera's overture playing in the background.
David Budd, in his 2002 book Culture Meets Culture in the Movies, writes about the experiences of characters when the expected roles of races in society are sometimes reversed. The 1995 fiction film White Man's Burden and John Howard Griffin's factual book Black Like Me are used as a foundation to show how different the experience of white people can be when subjected to the prejudices faced by black people. In that respect, Budd proclaims Trading Places as "uncannily illustrative if heavy-handed". Beginning from the premise that, in the film, the "expectations of the races also stand upon their head", Budd states that "through even a highly comedic vessel a message loudly asking for a reassessment of prejudice, and for level playing fields, is heard."
American philosopher and professor at Harvard University Stanley Cavell wrote about Trading Places in his 2005 book Cavell on film. Cavell postulates that film is sometimes used as a new technology in the production and experience of an opera. He explains that this axiom asserts its importance not in the fact that "our time" sees an increased expectation of new operas being developed but, rather, in the fact that there is an increased expectation of "new productions of operas." Cavell draws a comparison of themes between Trading Places and the opera The Marriage of Figaro, stating that "what Trading Places wants from its reference to Figaro is mostly the idea of resourceful and sociable young and poor overcoming with various disguises the conniving of the unsociable old and rich but with no sense that the old may be redeemed by a recognition of their faults and no revolutionary desire to see the world formed on a new basis."
- Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorpe III
- Eddie Murphy as Billy Ray Valentine
- Ralph Bellamy as Randolph Duke
- Don Ameche as Mortimer Duke
- Denholm Elliott as Coleman
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia
- Kristin Holby as Penelope Witherspoon
- Paul Gleason as Clarence Beeks
The cast also includes Robert Curtis-Brown as Todd, Winthorpe's romantic rival for Penelope; James Belushi as Harvey, a party-goer on New Year's Eve; Jamie Lee Curtis' sister Kelly Curtis cameos as Penelope's friend Muffy; Frank Oz as a police officer; and Bo Diddley as a pawnbroker. Tom Davis and Al Franken, also Saturday Night Live cast members, cameo as train baggage handlers.
Trading Places was released theatrically in the United States on June 8, 1983. During its opening weekend, the film earned $7.3 million from 1,375 theaters—an average of $5,334 per theater—ranking as the third highest grossing film of the weekend behind Superman III ($13.3 million)—debuting the same weekend—and Return of the Jedi ($11.2 million).
The film remained in the top ten grossing films for 17 weeks. It went on to earn $90.4 million during its U.S. theatrical run, making it the 4th highest grossing film of 1983, behind Flashdance ($92.9 million), Terms of Endearment ($108.4 million) and Return of the Jedi ($252.5 million), and the second highest grossing R-rated film of 1983 behind Flashdance. Adjusted for inflation, the film remains the number 58 highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 89% based on reviews from 38 critics, and an average rating of 7.2 out of 10, with the site's consensus "featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire." Metacritic provides a score of 66 out of 100 from 9 critics, which indicates "generally favorable" reviews.
Author and critic Richard Schickel of Time magazine called Trading Places "one of the most emotionally satisfying and morally gratifying comedies of recent times". While admitting Aykroyd's success in demonstrating "perfect prissiness as Winthorpe", Schickel commented on Murphy's performance as Valentine calling Murphy "a force to be reckoned with" and stating that he "makes Trading Places something more than a good-hearted comedy. He turns it into an event." Film critic Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three and a half stars out of four while offering that the film resembles Tootsie and comparing it to comedies of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges. Ebert stated "This is good comedy", he commended the character development in the film calling the characters "wonderful comic inventions" and explained that its comedic success is because the film "develops the quirks and peculiarities of its characters, so that they're funny because of who they are." He further commented on the cast by favorably commenting on acting as "engaging", stating that "Murphy and Aykroyd are perfect foils for each other", that they're both capable of being "specifically eccentric", that "they both play characters with a lot of native intelligence" and concluding that "It's fun to watch them thinking." Commenting on Bellamy and Ameche in the roles of the Duke brothers, Ebert called their involvement in the film "a masterstroke of casting."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times repeated some of Roger Ebert's sentiments stating that "Preston Sturges might have made a movie like Trading Places - if he'd had a little less inspiration and a lot more money." She, again, also commended the cast by calling it "well-chosen", commenting on Murphy and Aykroyd as "the two actors best suited", stating that the Duke brothers were "played delightfully" by Ameche and Bellamy and—concluding that "the supporting cast is also quite good"—praising Curtis for managing "to turn a hard-edged, miniskirted prostitute into a character of unexpected charm." Jay Carr of The Boston Globe called it "easily the best of the movies I've seen by the various Saturday Night Live alumni." Empire magazine awarded the film a rating of four stars out of five, classifying Trading Places as "Excellent" per the magazine's star rating system, stating that Murphy and Aykroyd are the show-stealers. A review of the film published by Variety magazine called the film "a light romp geared up by the schtick shifted by Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy." The review gave further commendations to supporting actors, stating that Murphy and Aykroyd "couldn't have brought this one off without the contributions of three veterans - Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche and the droll Englishman, Denholm Elliott" and calling the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis "enjoyable."
The film received several award nominations in 1984 including an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, and three BAFTA awards. Elliott and Curtis attracted the film's two wins, earning respectively, the BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
|37th British Academy Film Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Denholm Elliott||Won|||
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Jamie Lee Curtis||Won|
|Best Original Screenplay||Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod||Nominated|
|41st Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Trading Places||Nominated|||
|Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Eddie Murphy||Nominated|
|56th Academy Awards||Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score||Elmer Bernstein||Nominated|||
|Soundtrack album by Elmer Bernstein|
|Released||October 11, 2011|
|Label||La-La Land Records|
A score album was released by La-La Land Records on October 11, 2011 and was limited to 2000 copies. The album features Elmer Bernstein's Oscar-nominated score, as well as the source material that he wrote and arranged, including traditional Christmas carols that appear in the film. A significant portion of Bernstein's music is based on Mozart's music from The Marriage of Figaro. "Do Ya Wanna Funk," a hit song by Sylvester featured in the movie, was omitted from the album. The song "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva is also heard on the train scene and is credited on the film.
|2.||"Your Breakfast Sir / Good Morning! / Dukes"||3:42|
|3.||"The Club / Bump"||1:44|
|5.||"Moving Out / Plots"||1:59|
|6.||"Philly / Ploy"||0:56|
|7.||"Discovery / Bed"||0:49|
|8.||"Revelation / The Goods / Train"||1:46|
|10.||"Kicking Ass / Cards"||2:11|
|12.||"Louis Winthorpe III Blues"||1:39|
|14.||"Andante Cantabile from String Quartet, K. 165"||1:25|
|16.||"Joy to the World"||1:32|
|18.||"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"||1:14|
|19.||"O Little Town of Bethlehem"||2:36|
|20.||"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (slower version)"||1:49|
|21.||"Good Morning! (alternate)"||1:55|
|24.||"Ploy (alternate 2)"||0:37|
|25.||"Train (promotional LP version)"||1:34|
|26.||"Kicking Ass / Cards (alternate)"||1:37|
Almost 30 years after its release, the plot for the movie was part of the inspiration for new regulations on the financial markets. On March 3, 2010 Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief Gary Gensler stated, in testimony he gave to the 111th Congress, "We have recommended banning using misappropriated government information to trade in the commodity markets. In the movie Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy, the Duke brothers intended to profit from trades in frozen concentrated orange juice futures contracts using an illicitly obtained and not yet public Department of Agriculture orange crop report."
The "Eddie Murphy Rule", as it came to be known, later came into effect as Section 136 of the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, under Section 746, which dealt with insider trading.
- 1983 in film
- Cinema of the United States
- List of American films of 1983
- Pudd'nhead Wilson, a switching places novel by Mark Twain
- Box Office Information for Trading Places. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
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- Cavell 2005, pp. 309–311
- Monahan, Mark. Must-have movies: Trading Places (1983), The Daily Telegraph, May 20, 2005. Accessed April 13, 2010.
- Chatman 1990, p. 8
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- Carr, Jay. "Trading Places", The Boston Globe, June 9, 1983. Accessed April 12, 2010.
- Trading Places, Empire. Accessed April 12, 2010.
- Trading Places, Variety. Accessed April 12, 2010.
- Nominees & Winners for the 56th Academy Awards, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Accessed April 9, 2010.
- The 41st Annual Golden Globe Awards (1984), Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Accessed April 9, 2010.
- Film Nominations 1983, BAFTA. Accessed April 9, 2010.
- La-La Land Records Product Details
- First The Volcker Rule, Now The Eddie Murphy Rule!, Market Beat, a part of The Wall Street Journal. Accessed September 7, 2010.
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, OpenCongress. Accessed September 7, 2010.
- Budd, David (2002). "Classic Encounters of Black on White". Culture Meets Culture in the Movies: an Analysis East, West, North, and South, With Filmographies. McFarland & Company. p. 210. ISBN 0-7864-1095-7.
- Min, Eungjun (1999). "Images of the Homeless in the Motion Pictures". Reading the Homeless: The Media's Image of Homeless Culture. Praeger Publishers. p. 167. ISBN 0-275-95950-3.
- Childs, Peter (2006). "Pop Video". Texts: Contemporary Cultural Texts and Critical Approaches. Edinburgh University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-7486-2043-5.
- Truby, John (2007). "Moral Argument". The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. Faber and Faber. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-86547-951-7.
- Cavell, Stanley (2005). "Opera in (and as) Film)". Cavell on Film. State University of New York Press. pp. 309–311. ISBN 0-7914-6431-8.
- Chatman, Seymour (1990). "Narrative and Two Other Text-Types". Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film. Cornell University Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-8014-9736-1.
- Smith, Robert (July 12, 2013). "What Actually Happens At The End Of 'Trading Places'?". All Things Considered. Planet Money (NPR). Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- "Guy Who Wrote 'Trading Places' Responds To Our Show About His Movie". Planet Money (NPR). July 24, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
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