Trading PlacesTonight we watched a present from a friend (grateful thanks to KW), the 1983 John Landis comedy satire, Trading Places, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphie, and with strong supporting roles for Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis (for which both won British Academy awards). Aykroyd plays a spoilt Philadelphia commodities broker, Louis Winthorpe III, and Murphy a wise-cracking, street-smart tramp, Billy Ray Valentine. In a variation on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (with a musical nod to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro), Murphie’s tramp takes Aykroyd’s place and life, this at the whim of two old commodities brokers, the Duke brothers, who bet that the one cannot be the other (nature versus nurture). Aykroyd’s character must therefore also become poor and homeless, though he is soon befriended by a prostitute with a big heart (played by Jamie Lee Curtis). Murphie’s character meanwhile disproves the nurture argument (and subliminal racial prejudice), becoming a successful broker and suddenly developing good manners, thus winning the admiration of Winthorpe’s butler (played by Elliott). Having by chance overheard the Duke brothers discussing their bet, Valentine (and the butler) forges an alliance with Althorpe (and the prostitute), and the four act to spoil the Duke brothers’ scheme to make an illicit fortune by betting on concentrated orange juice futures on the strength of a supposedly secret government report on orange crop prices. Instead, the four make the fortune and the brothers are bankrupted. With Aykroyd and Murphie in the lead roles, this was always going to be opera buffa. But inside this funny film there was a serious one trying to get out though, extraordinarily, it took another twenty-seven years before the US Congress passed legislation (known as the ‘Eddie Murphie rule’) to ban the use of misappropriated government information in the commodities markets. Having very recently read Orwell, I was also interested in two other implicit morals of the story: can you only truly understand poverty if you have experienced it, and does a period of poverty improve the soul?