Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Landis|
|Produced by||Aaron Russo|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Edited by||Malcolm Campbell|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$90.4 million|
Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film directed by John Landis and written by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod. It stars Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The film tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker (Aykroyd) and a poor street hustler (Murphy) whose lives cross when they are unwittingly made the subject of an elaborate bet to test how each man will perform when their life circumstances are swapped.
Harris conceived the outline for Trading Places in the early 1980s after encountering two wealthy brothers who were engaged in an ongoing rivalry with each other. He and his writing partner Weingrod developed the idea as a project to star Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. When they were unable to participate, Landis cast Aykroyd—with whom he had worked previously—and a young but increasingly popular Murphy in his second feature-film role. Landis also cast Curtis, against the intent of the studio, Paramount Pictures; she was famous mainly for her roles in horror films, which were looked down upon at the time. Principal photography took place from December 1982 to March 1983, entirely on location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Elmer Bernstein scored the film, using Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera buffa The Marriage of Figaro as an underlying theme.
Trading Places was considered a box-office success on its release, earning over $90.4 million to become the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1983 in North America. It also received generally positive reviews. Reviewers were consistent in their praise for the central cast, and they appreciated the film's revival of the screwball comedy genre prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s. Criticism focused on the film lacking the same moral message of the genre while promoting the accumulation of wealth. It received multiple award nominations including an Academy Award for Bernstein's score and won two BAFTA awards for Elliott and Curtis. The film 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.
In the years since its release, the film has been reassessed in positive and negative terms. 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.