Trading Places (1983)
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.
Trading Places (1983)
On the commodities trading floor, the Dukes commit their holdings to buying frozen concentrated orange juice futures contracts, legally committing themselves to buying the commodity at a later date. Other traders follow their lead, driving the price up; Valentine and Winthorpe short-sell juice futures contracts at the inflated price. Following the broadcast of the actual crop report and its prediction of a normal harvest, the price of juice futures plummets. Valentine and Winthorpe buy at the lower price from everyone except the Dukes, fulfilling the contracts they had short-sold earlier, turning an immense profit.
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. The film has numerous cameos, including singer Bo Diddley as a pawnbroker; Curtis' sister Kelly as Penelope's friend Muffy; the Muppets puppeteers Frank Oz and Richard Hunt as, respectively, a police officer and Wilson, the Dukes' broker on the trading floor; and Aykroyd's former Saturday Night Live colleagues, Tom Davis and Al Franken, as train baggage handlers.
Harris and Weingrod researched the commodities market for the script. They learned of financial market incidents, including Russian attempts to corner the wheat market and the Hunt brothers' efforts to corner the silver market on what became known as Silver Thursday. They thought trading orange juice and pork bellies would be funnier because the public would be unaware such mundane items were traded. Harris consulted with people in the commodities business to understand how the film's finale on the trading floor would work. The pair determined that the commodities market would make for an interesting setting for a film, as long as it was not about the financial market itself. They needed something to draw the audience in. It was decided to set the story in Philadelphia because of its connections to the founding of the United States, the American dream and idealism and the pursuit of happiness. This was tempered by introducing Billy Ray Valentine as a black man begging on the street. The pair knew that the method of Winthorpe's and Valentine's financial victory could be confusing, but hoped that audiences would be too invested in the characters' success to care about the details.
The studio also objected to the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis. At the time she was seen as a "scream queen", primarily associated with low-quality B movies. Landis had worked previously with Curtis on the horror documentary Coming Soon, for which she had served as the host. She wanted to move away from horror films as she was conscious that the association would limit her future career prospects. She had turned down a role in the horror film Psycho II (1983) because of this. Her mother, Janet Leigh, had famously starred in Psycho (1960). Curtis had performed recently in the slasher film Halloween II (1981) as a favor to director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill; she was paid $1 million for that role, but received only $70,000 for Trading Places. When asked if she had researched her role as a prostitute, Curtis jokingly remarked: "I'd love to say I went out and turned a couple of tricks on 42nd Street, but I didn't." Curtis had long hair when she was cast; costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis suggested cutting her hair shorter for the film.
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 (1981) and Doctor Detroit (1983), 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. Arnold said that Aykroyd worked best when he shared a central role with another star. Rita Kempley said that his relationship with Murphy was just as enjoyable as his one with Belushi.
Vincent Canby said that although the film is an homage to social satire screwball comedies of the early 20th century, Trading Places is a symbol of its time. Where the earlier films espoused the benefits of things other than money, Trading Places is built around the value of money and those who aspire to have it. The heroes win by making lots of money; the villains are punished by becoming part of the impoverished. The heroes' reward is escaping to a tropical island, completely divorced from the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that had previously been their home. Money is demonstrably a solution to all of the problems raised in the film, and when it is taken away, it is shown that people quickly resort to a basic criminal nature. It can be seen as an example of supply-side economics, alongside films like the comedies Arthur (1981) and Risky Business (1983). While seemingly supporting left-leaning political concepts by arguing that given an equal platform a street-hustler like Valentine can perform Winthorpe's job equally well, the film promotes right-leaning concepts like Reagan-era policies where the accumulation of wealth is highly valued.
"Trading Places" resembles "Tootsie" and, for that matter, some of the classic Frank Capra and Preston Sturges comedies: It wants to be funny, but it also wants to tell us something about human nature and there are whole stretches when we forget it's a comedy and get involved in the story. And it's a great idea for a story: A white preppy snot and a black street hustler trade places, and learn new skills they never dreamed existed.
One day a particularly tempting wager occurs to them. Aykroyd has had Murphy arrested for stealing his briefcase. It's an unfair charge and Murphy is innocent, but Murphy is black and had the misfortune to bump into Aykroyd is front of a snobby club. To Mortimer Duke (Ameche), a believer that environment counts for more than heredity, this is a golden opportunity to test his theory. He bets his brother that if Aykroyd and Murphy were to change places, the black street kid would soon be just as good as calling the shots in the commodity markets as the white Ivy Leaguer ever was.
A riff on "The Prince and the Pauper," "Trading Places" follows Eddie Murphy's homeless conman and Dan Aykroyd's wealthy stockbroker as they switch places thanks to a bet placed by two old codgers. It is an appealing rags-to-riches, riches-to-rags story that culminates with Murphy and Aykroyd working together for comic justice.
When two bastardly billionaire brothers, Duke and Duke of Duke & Duke Commodities Brokers (Bellamy, Ameche), have a one dollar wager about the respective merits of breeding or environment on a man's character, they engineer the 'trading places' of one of their young financial wizards (Aykroyd, in fine smug form) with a black low-life hustler (Murphy), and sit back to watch Murphy rise and Aykroyd fall. This absurdly wayward premise may be a re-run of the Prince and the Pauper theme, but its snowy Christmas setting in Philadelphia provides the film with more than a hint of Christmas Carol fairytale warmth; it's also a great vehicle for the talents of Murphy, who fulfils with outrageous confidence all that he promised in 48 HRS. As a satire on the internecine savagery of fiscal doings under late Reaganite capitalism, the movie is not as biting as it thinks it is; but it's still the best hoot since Arthur. CPea.
In the meantime, Billy Ray Valentine proved that every person also has the ability to learn about social roles, as well as social expectations, through observation and can become a success in life provided he is given the proper instruments with which to reach that goal. This also proves that sometimes, luck is just common sense in disguise, as he proved with the way he handled the pork belly trading situation.
If you have any interest at all in finance, then it's mandatory to have seen the 1983 movie "Trading Places." You remember, right? Two wealthy Philadelphia commodity brokers bet on whether anyone, even down-and-out Eddie Murphy, can be trained to become a successful trader. What you might not realize is that something very similar happened in real life. In this week's Odd Lots, we examine the amazing tale of the Turtle Traders. In 1983, successful commodities speculator Richard Dennis took out a full-page ad looking for novices to train in the art of trading. His novices -- who did spectacularly well -- studied for just a few weeks and were dubbed his "Turtles." Joining us to tell the story is Michael Covel, who wrote a book on the Turtles, and Jerry Parker, a former Turtle who still trades using the same technique today.
One of my favorite "unlikely" holiday films, which has many useful teachable moments of clips to use in the classroom, is "Trading Places" (1983). This brilliant film is still one of the best business films ever made, and, personally, I think it's one of Murphy's and Aykroyd's best. It is also an "unlikely" holiday film because it just happens to be set during the holidays, and the season is not its primary focus. Instead, the film provides commentary on "nature versus nurture" and how good fortune can be fleeting (if left to someone else, such as the Dukes), or ready for the taking (with a little teamwork and creativity). What are some other great films set during the holiday season that have useful clips for the classroom? 041b061a72