Let's watch "Trading Places", the comedy classic from 1983 about two rich guys in Philadelphia that make a bet they can change a street criminal into a rich powerful guy who votes for Reagan, and they turn a Yuppie executive into a street criminal, and so they bet a dollar on it and Eddie Murphy ends up trading soybean futures all day and inviting pimps over to his mansion at night, while Dan Aykroyd gets all his American Express cards ripped off and has to go live with Jamie Lee Curtis, a hooker with a heart of gold. This was only Eddie Murphy's second movie, so he was still getting second billing to Dan Aykroyd -- wasn't till his THIRD movie that he became a superstar worth 19 jillion dollars, but he steals the film anyway. The scene everyone remembers is right at the beginning -- the blind beggar scene in Rittenhouse Square -- I think it's Rittenhouse Square-so don't get up. We've got a lot more going on tonight. Four stars. Let's check it out:
Eddie Murphy as the legless beggar con man. He went two-for-two with this movie. First two movies of his career, both of em huge hits. First "48 Hours," with Nick Nolte. Then "Trading Places." He got paid $200,000 for "48 Hours," $300,000 for "Trading Places," and he didn't become a million-dollar actor until his third movie -- the unforgettable . . . "Best Defense." Remember that turkey with Dudley Moore? Actually, the "Trading Places" role was written for Richard Pryor, and they only went for Eddie Murphy when Pryor passed on it. Of course, I'm talking like three hundred thousand is--how could they RIP OFF Eddie like that? Three hundred thousand dollars for an Eddie Murphy movie? Like we could all just go out on the street and make three hundred thousand dollars. How many people would NOT go "Hallelujah Praise God!" if they got three hundred thousand dollars. But we talk about numbers like that, in Eddie Murphy terms, as, "Hey, man, you want him to live in the SLUMS, what's up with that?" Actually he lives in a mansion called Bubble Hill, which I think is a BAD name for a movie-star mansion -- bubble, brings to mind that just a little pin-prick makes it all go away -- but anyway, Bubble Hill, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, with, at last report, 52 employees, five bodyguards, one wife, two kids, and a dog named Blue. But this is the movie where people first said, "Hey! He can act! Even when he's, like, SERIOUS!" And when he made this, he was all of 20 years old. Okay, a few commercials and then back to the flick.
[fading] Eddie Murphy scares me a little bit. I mean, I think he'd be fun to be around, but if you did the WRONG THING, he'd have somebody whup your butt. He's got those Louis Farrakhan-lookin guys standing around. "Excuse me, sir, yes, apparently I did spill part of my drink on Mr. Murphy's French cufflink." Wham! You're on the pavement. Just an impression.
Randolph and Mortimer, the Duke brothers, are, of course, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, the great leading men from the golden age of Hollywood. Don Ameche hadn't made a movie in 12 years when "Trading Places" came out. What's interesting about those two actors is that they were both stars of Broadway, radio, television, AND film, back when actors were a little bit more versatile than they are today. Okay, guys, what was Ralph Bellamy best known for? YES, he was the satanic guy in Rosemary's Baby, but I'm thinking of three things. Anybody? Okay, "The Awful Truth," the movie where he's the Oklahoma oil millionaire who's gonna marry Irene Dunne, but Cary Grant shows up and steals her away. Great movie--Ralph Bellamy had dozens of roles where the girl gets snatched away from him, cause he wasn't really as ELEGANT as a leading man needed to be. "Sunrise at Campobello," which he did on TV. That was a huge thing, story of Franklin Roosevelt's battle with polio. And he had done that on Broadway, too. And then nobody's gonna get the third one. "Detective Story" on Broadway in the fifties. Every once in a while some college drama department will do "Detective Story," but I think it's all but forgotten today. Great play. Ralph Bellamy performed more than 400 roles on stage, more then a hundred movies, died in 1991. Now. Don Ameche. This is the movie where he was rediscovered -- Ron Howard saw him in this and decided to use him in Cocoon, but only after he couldn't get Ray Milland. And Don Ameche won an Oscar for "Cocoon." And Don Ameche was best known for -- three things for him, too. "The Bickersons" on NBC radio. As a hen-pecked husband. He also did it on TV. That movie "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell." For years people knew him as the guy who invented the telephone, even though he had been a sophisticated leading-man type and a radio star for years before that. And a panelist on "To Tell the Truth." Not his best work, but what people remember. Died in 1993, at age 85. Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche really give this movie an energy and a drive that it wouldn't have without em. Okay, enough reminiscing. What is this, Turner Classic Movies? Let's watch some commercials.
[fading] Oh! "International Showtime." Don Ameche was the host of a weekly show on NBC called "International Showtime." He would travel to a different circus every week, he went all over the world, and they would present the top acts from that circus. And there was Don with that pencil mustache, the SUAVE American commentator, whispering to us like an announcer at a golf match, so he wouldn't disturb the Czechoslovakian acrobats. That show was GREAT.
That was Frank Oz, of "Miss Piggy" fame (and the voice of Yoda), as the interrogating cop who books Dan Aykroyd. You know what's strange about this movie to me? I've been to Philadelphia. I lived in Philadelphia for a brief time. They don't have butlers like Denholm Elliott. That's a British thing. And I don't even think it's a British thing anymore. Even the richest part of mainline Philadelphia, they didn't have THIS kind of butler, and they didn't have the big long old-fashioned Rolls Royce limos, in 1983. At the beginning they say it's present time--you know, the Mozart Montage with all the images of the rich people in Philadelphia and the poor people in Philadelphia--and then they give us this old world of butlers, chauffeurs, clench-jawed preppies and all-male business clubs that hasn't existed since the thirties. Some of the critics compared this movie to Preston Sturges when it came out. Well, Preston Sturges made "The Lady Eve" in 1941, and "The Lady Eve" has a PARODY of the British butler, because in 1941 the idea of a British butler was cliched and outdated! Remember William Demarest? William Demarest is the butler, and he talks like a gangster. So they're saying "John Landis is doing a Preston Sturges movie." No, he's not. He's doing the kind of movie that Preston Sturges MADE FUN OF. Also, if Duke and Duke is the biggest brokerage house for commodities trading, why is it in Philadelphia? The big commodities exchanges are in Chicago! At any rate, Denholm Elliott thrived on roles like this--the knowing butler with impeccable diction. He doesn't have many lines, but he can act with nothing but his eyebrows. In fact, Denholm Elliott had a reputation for mugging a little TOO much, and stealing scenes. They had a saying in the English theater: "Never act with children, dogs or Denholm Elliott." All right, I'll quit my bitching. Go to the commercials and let's get on with it.
[fading] The late Denholm Elliott. Passed on in 1992, at the age of 70, from AIDS (his final movie was Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade). Lot of DEAD people in this movie. Guess we shouldn't dwell on that in a WACKY COMEDY, should we?
Well, we lost a few nekkid ladies there in the big party scene. Had some topless action going on in the original movie, before TNT took its scissors to that scene. Eddie Murphy is rich now, and all his ghetto friends can't deal with it. Are they implying that ANY ghetto crowd would wreck ANY decent place? That SEEMS to be the implication of that scene, doesn't it? Anyhow, the SERIOUS black film critics are all over this movie. They say that ALL Eddie Murphy movies are racist, because he starts out in an all-black environment, then he goes into a white environment, gets cleaned up, takes on white values, solves white problems, and ends up peacefully coexisting with the white middle-class ideal. Think about it: "48 HRS." -- guy in jail, goes to work for a white cop, gets a nice new suit. This movie -- obvious. "Beverly Hills Cop" -- starts in Detroit, goes to . . .Beverly Hills. I wanna read this quote from the critic Ed Guerrero, who wrote "Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film": "In 'Trading Places,' Eddie Murphy is integrated into the capitalist class, and by the film's close he has fully internalized their values." I guess, as opposed to the GREAT values he had in the first scene, when he was a total con man. Okayyy. I see, Eddie already WAS a capitalist when he was a blind legless beggar in Rittenhouse Square. What. Ever. Let's get back to it.
[fading] This whole movie is very eighties in its approach to money. Money good. Poverty bad. There's no, "Well, money isn't everything." In this movie, money is everything. Came out the same year the word "Yuppie" was coined. That right there should tell you something.
Well, we missed the money shot for Jamie Lee Curtis. She did spring those babies out of the chute there in the scene where they go back to her apartment, and she got some VERY nice reviews for this movie, not a few of which mentioned her lovely, if not perfect, garbonzas. This was her "big break" scene, the one where she talks about how she gets along in life and how much money she's saved -- after that she was taken more seriously as an actress. Because up to this time she was known almost exclusively for horror films. Especially Halloween, as the original babysitter in peril. The Fog. "Prom Night." She broke away from that a little bit with "Death of a Centerfold," the TV movie about Dorothy Stratten, and then the same year this came out, she got married to Christopher Guest, better known as Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap. Now he's Lord Haden-Guest. He's got a seat in the House of Lords. So technically Jamie Lee Curtis is Lady Haden-Guest. Which she should take advantage of, because, among other things, one of her most successful films was British -- A Fish Called Wanda -- and she won a British Academy Award. For this very film we're watching. Isn't that interesting. Back in a minute.
[fading] We scissored those famous hooters right outta there. We can't be like TV in Europe, where they have a true appreciation for the tastefully exposed, finely photographed femine form, or, as they say in Germany, humongous yabbos.
You know, this was also the first Dan Aykroyd movie that was a success. He'd written Blues Brothers and starred in it with John Belushi, and that was a cult hit but not really a box office or critical success, and then he made "Dr. Detroit," which was a total flop, and if THIS movie had flopped, his career might have been cut pretty short. But after this he did Ghostbusters, which he'd originally written for himself and John Belushi, and from that point he would never have to go back to the 750 bucks a week they gave him when he joined Saturday Night Live in 1975. He was kind of overshadowed in "Trading Places" by both of his co-stars, Eddie Murphy AND Jamie Lee Curtis, but everybody loved the movie and could see that it was a good solid performance. Okay, back to it.
[fading] That was Bo Diddley running that pawn shop, wasn't it? You get a feeling Bo Diddley knows his way around pawn shops, you know what I mean?
The reason Eddie Murphy gets motivated when he overhears the Duke Brothers in the men's room is that they describe him with . . . the n-word. But you can't say the n-word in the official TV vesion. Also, when Dan Aykroyd gets off the bus, in the original version, he doesn't just get wet from a rainstorm. First a dog urinates on him, then he puts a gun to his head--but the gun misfires. NO GUN! That's the lowest point of the movie. Technically the act two climax--when he tries to kill himself. But instead of an act two climax, our TNT version has an act two "Isn't it funny that he's all wet?" scene. All right, I don't wanna talk about it. Go.
[fading] They wanna show the movie, but they DON'T wanna show the movie. What is it? Three in the morning. That would be SO dangerous to show that much DOG URINE. Oooooooooo.
What do you do when you're not sure exactly how to end a movie? Add a little Franken and Davis, a big gorilla, and, of course, an Amtrak party scene. They have SO MANY wild drunken parties on Amtrak, don't they? We shouldn't make fun, though, because this was yet another hit for the director who just couldn't do anything wrong in the early eighties. John Landis. He made one of the most successful independent films in history, "Kentucky Fried Movie." Followed by Animal House, Blues Brothers, and An American Werewolf in London. Then after this movie, his fifth popular hit in a row, three people died while he was filming Twilight Zone: The Movie, and things were never quite the same after that. Just a few years later, Eddie Murphy had to use all the power he had to force Paramount to hire him as the director on Coming to America, and then Murphy and Landis had a big fight while they were making the movie, and I don't guess they've done anything together since then. Anyhow, one thing John Landis loves is gorillas, and coming up, right after the commercials, is the gorilla-laden conclusion to "Trading Places."
[fading] Which is basically "The Prince and the Pauper." Actually, BOTH those movies are versions of "Prince and the Pauper." "Trading Places" and "Coming to America." But do you see Mark Twain's name on either one of them? I think not.
Whoever gets the money and the beautiful girl, wins. Pretty much the message of the eighties, as outlined in "Trading Places." Did you notice they went into a commodities exchange at the World Trade Center? IS there a commodities exchange at the World Trade Center? I don't know. I thought that stuff was in Chicago. All right, next week on "Joe Bob's Hollywood Saturday Night," it's naughty president night -- we're gonna start it off with The American President, one of Michael Douglas's greatest performances, with Annette Bening and Michael J. Fox of Back To The Future fame, and we're following that up with Look Who's Talking Now: "The Linda Tripp Story." No. Not really. It's the second sequel to the ADORABLE talking-baby series. We're getting into Christmas, you're gonna have to put up with this stuff for a little bit.
And that's it for me, Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that sometimes the sex is so good that even the neighbors have a cigarette. Did you guys hear about the man who entered his local newspaper's Pun Contest? He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.
Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.
There was this doctor who made it his regular habit to stop off at a bar for a
hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender knows of his habit, so he
always has the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m. One afternoon, as the
end of the work day approaches, the bartender is dismayed to find that
he's out of hazelnut extract. So he thinks quickly, throws together a
daiquiri made with hickory nuts and sets it on the bar. The doctor comes
in at his regular time, takes a sip of the drink, says, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri."
Bartender says, "No, I'm sorry, it's a hickory daiquiri, doc."
"Radix malorum est cupiditas" (quoted in The New Yorker magazine, look it up)
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