Louis Winthorpe III is a businessman who works for a commodities brokerage firm of Duke & Duke owned by the brothers Mortimer and Randolph Duke. One winter day Winthorpe bumps into street hustler Billy Ray Valentine and assumes he is trying to rob him, so he has him arrested. Seeing how different the two men are, the brothers decide to make a wager: What would happen if Winthorpe lost his job, his home, his girlfriend, and were to be shunned by everyone he knew? And what if Valentine was given Winthorpe's job? They proceed with their plans and the results, unbeknownst to Duke & Duke, aren't exactly what they expected.
Having already directed such box office smashes as "Animal House," "The Blues Brothers," and "An American Werewolf in London," John Landis directed Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in "Trading Places" which turned out to be another huge hit at the box office, raking in $90.4 million in the U.S. after its June 8th premiere in 1983.
This would be the second time Aykroyd would be directed by Landis, having previously been in "The Blues Brothers." He was already in several films and was most widely known for his participation in TV's "Saturday Night Live." Though also a Not Ready for Prime Time Player in "Saturday Night Live," "Trading Places" was only Eddie Murphy's second film, his first being "48 Hrs." with co-star Nick Nolte.
"Trading Places" stars Dan Aykroyd (Louis Winthorpe III), Eddie Murphy (Billy Ray Valentine), and Jamie Lee Curtis (Ophelia). Its supporting cast includes Ralph Bellamy (Randolph Duke), Don Ameche (Mortimer Duke), Denholm Elliott (Coleman), and Paul Gleason (Clarence Beeks). Both Jamie Lee Curtis and Denholm Elliott won BAFTA awards for Supporting Actor/Actress and Elmer Bernstein was nominated for an Academy Award for his music and score.
A Golden Globe went to Eddie Murphy for Best Actor in a comedic role for his talented performance and, of course, "Trading Places" won the Golden Globe for Best Film in the Comedy/Musical category. Some other bits of trivia include...
1. The original title: "Black and White".
2. The premise is similar to that of "Hoi Polloi," The Three Stooges film. Two rich guys are arguing about what matters most: breeding or upbringing. One bets the other they can take any bum off the street and make him a gentleman.
3. The film was conceived as a vehicle for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. But when Pryor dropped out and Eddie Murphy came on board, he made a motion to get Wilder replaced because he didn't want people to think he was just trying to be another Pryor.
4. Ray Milland was the first choice for the role of Mortimer Duke.
5. This was Don Ameche's first film since "Suppose They Gave A War and Nobody Came?" 13 years earlier.
6. John Gielgud and Ronnie Barker were offered the role of Coleman the butler.
7. G. Gordon Liddy was offered the part of Clarence Beeks but turned it down after discovering Beeks's fate. Beeks is reading Liddy's book, "Will", on the train.
8. While she was making this picture, Jamie Lee Curtis stayed in Marlene Dietrich's apartment (12E) at 993 Park Avenue in Manhattan. She'd been engaged to Dietrich's grandson, production designer J. Michael Riva.
9. The main titles are accompanied by the overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and in an early scene, as Louis is leaving his office he whistles the beginning of the aria "Se vuol ballare" from the opera. In that aria, Figaro declares his plan to turn the tables on his master - just as Louis and Billy Ray will eventually outwit the Duke brothers.
10. The exterior shots of Louis Winthorpe's house are of a real house on a very affluent street in Philadelphia. The wreath on the door was replaced when the producers wanted something bigger and better. They borrowed a hand-made wreath from a house across the street.
11. The home used in the film is not the Rosenbach Museum and Library, but is a private home two doors west. Both houses, however, were built at the same time and originally had an identical floor plan. During the filming of the movie, DeLancey Place was closed for a few days. Denholm Elliott was the only actor in the film to visit the Rosenbach. The staff of the museum were all given Pennsylvania State Film Commission tee shirts.
12. The exterior of the men's club is really the Curtis Institute of Music.
13. Toward the beginning of the film, watch for the scene where Louis Winthorpe runs into Billy Ray Valentine. See the attendant standing at the stairs in the grey uniform and blowing his whistle? That's noneother than Robert Earl Jones, the father of James Earl Jones. If you've seen Oscar-winning film, "The Sting," Robert Earl Jones played the role of Luther Coleman. He had been in films since 1939 on up through 1992.
14. In the jail cell scene with Eddie Murphy, a particular actor, Ron Taylor (credits have him as Big Black Guy in the film -- he's the guy who says, "Yeah!") went on to act in many other films and television programs until his death in 2002. "Trading Places" was his first. In 1999, Ron was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor for Broadway's, "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues." Continuing on with the same scene...
15. ... Clint Smith (who wore the doo rag) was, in reality, a childhood friend of Eddie Murphy. He appeared in films "48 Hrs." and "Coming to America," also starring Eddie, as well as a few uncredited scenes or skits in "Saturday Night Live." Also...
16. ... Giancarlo Esposito plays the guy who is credited as Cellmate #2. You may not know the name, but he previously had a role in the film, "Taps" starring Timothy Hutton. Furthering his career, he appeared in other films including "The Cotton Club," "Desperately Seeking Susan," "School Daze," "Do the Right Thing," "Mo' Better Blues," "Malcolm X," and other films and television productions. You might notice him today as playing the bad guy, Major Tom Neville in TV's, "Revolution."
17. When Eddie Murphy is released from jail, he stands near three men in trench coats on the steps of the precinct. The man with his back to Murphy holding a briefcase is director John Landis.
18. Louis's (Dan Aykroyd) prison number is 7474505B, which is the same prison number as Jake (John Belushi) in "The Blues Brothers," also directed by John Landis and starring Aykroyd.
19. Frank Oz has a cameo as a police officer who is checking in Winthorpes property when he gets arrested. In the Blues Brothers, also directed by John Landis, he plays an officer who is giving Jake Blues his property back to him. A sidenote: You might remember Frank Oz as being the voice of various muppets on "The Muppet Show" and "The Muppet Movie" including Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and Animal, but he was also the voice of The Mighty Favog which was a creation of Jim Henson and used on the TV show, "Saturday Night Live," also co-starring Dan Aykroyd. In 1991 he directed the film "What About Bob?" starring Bill Murray, also an alumni of "Saturday Night Live."
20. The punch line of Bunny's story ("...and she stepped on the ball") is a reference to "Auntie Mame," in which Gloria Upson tells a joke with the same punch line.
21. The barbershop quartet song sung by Todd and his pals at the tennis club is sung to the tune of "Aura Lee" an American Civil War song written by W. W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music). Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" is a derivative of it as well. Another version of Aura Lee is done in "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) It's the song the Pi's sing to offer themselves as dates to the the Tri-Lambs (Hello Lambdas we're the Pi's/And we're here to say/We think you are special guys/Lambdas all the way...).
22. In the scene when Louis visits the club to borrow money, the actress who plays "Muffy" is Kelly Curtis, the sister of Jamie Lee Curtis.
23. Jamie Lee Curtis' future brother-in-law, Nicholas Guest, appears as Harry.
24. The electronic status board at Duke & Duke's (seen prominently in the Christmas scene) is the "Big Money" board from the TV game show, "The Family Feud."
25. When Valentine chases Winthorpe out of the Christmas party he grabs a man in a Santa Claus suit. This man is Mike Strug, a television reporter who still works for a network affiliate in the city of Philadelphia.
26. A scene in the movie not included in the final cut but seen frequently when the movie is shown on television (presumably to fill a longer time slot with commercials) occurs after Clarence Beeks talks to the Dukes via telephone and Billy Ray eavesdrops on their scheme. In the original cut, Beeks goes from the phone booth to the Amtrak train platform, holding the briefcase with the crop report. In the added scene, we see Beeks procure the reports from a secured vault where he pays off a security guard and opens a safe-deposit box.
27. Several scenes were kept in the movie, even though they were considered either goofs or errors. The scene where Mortimer is trying to catch the money clip and having trouble wasn't supposed to happen that way, but both kept going with it and not breaking character, so it was kept in. Another, where Jamie Lee Curtis is doing her lines on the train and is questioned about her accent and outfit not matching, wasn't supposed to be shown either. Curtis couldn't do the correct Austrian accent.
28. In 2010, as part of the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act, which was to regulate financial markets, a rule was included which barred anyone from using secret inside information to corner markets, similar to what the Duke brothers tried to do in the movie. Since the movie inspired this rule, it has since become known as the Eddie Murphy Rule.
29. When Winthorpe and Valentine arrive at the World Trade Center, Winthorpe tells Valentine "In this building, it's either kill or be killed". This line was removed from some TV broadcasts after 2001, out of respect for the victims of the September 11th attacks.
30. Eddie Murphy later admitted that while on the floor of the stock exchange in the final scene, he only followed the script, he had no idea what was going on as he found stock trading incredibly confusing.
31. The story about the Dukes' cornering of the orange juice market was probably inspired by the "Silver Thursday" market crash of 27 March 1980, during which the Hunt brothers of Texas tried to corner the silver market and subsequently failed to meet a $100 million margin call.
32. Don Ameche's strong religious convictions made him uncomfortable with swearing. This proved a problem for the scene at the end of the movie where he had to shout out "F**k him!" to a group of Wall Street executives. When he did act out the scene, it had to be done in one take because Ameche refused to do a second one.
33. Both Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche reprise their roles as brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke in the film, "Coming to America." Though cameo appearances, the two are homeless on the street and Prince Akeem (played ironically by Eddie Murphy) gives them a large amount of money to get them back off the streets.
It's hard to believe that a lot of good came from this film. I mean, it's a comedy from the 80s. Who would have thunk it? By "good" I mean a couple of people who didn't even have names in the credits went on to further their careers. We didn't see that coming. Just goes to show what can happen when one continues to do what one truly loves doing, regardless of what the odds look like or even what people say.
Here are some still from the film you might enjoy, including one with the Twin Towers in the background before their fall in 2001...