Trading Places is a film that came out in 1983, which I enjoyed as a child many, many (too many) times. It is a John Landis film that was originally written for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, but was recast with the rising star Eddie Murphy and still-foxy Canadian Dan Aykroyd. Anyway, this was one of my favorite films of childhood, even though I didn’t really understand it.
On my flight home from London, I chose it to watch as comfort viewing, having not seen it in probably a decade. I was greeted with the following message from United:
This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content.
This is a normal thing that one generally ignores, but because Trading Places was originally 116 minutes long, it was edited in many bizarre ways in order to make it closer to 90 minutes long.
What was cut out is much of what makes the film funny, or at least, makes it very funny. Plane talk:
1. This is not an edit, but when Eddie is acting as a disabled Vet in the beginning, he makes a Porgy and Bess joke that I never got before.
2. The first scene I noticed was missing was Winthorpe’s fireside date with Penelope, where she’s wearing a bra and panties. Too racy for United!
3. Some of the replacement swears are pretty great. No statement of “shit” remains, and in the Jacuzzi, “We used to fart in the tub” is replaced with “fight”, but later in the film the Dukes use the N-word. Strange logic.
4. The snip about what to do with Billy Ray’s clothes is gone, along with the racist quip about being from a very musical people.
5. Penelope is pretty much gone from the film. The club scene where Louis comes to borrow money is deleted when the twits sing to Aura Lee. (Muffy is played by Jamie Curtis’ sister!) When she picks Louis up from jail a tiny, funny exchange is gone where a homeless man comments that she has a nice purse, and she sprays perfume on his bald head while she waits.
6. Billy Ray’s party scene is gone. This is very sad. Not only do you get the appearance of 80’s comedy tits (I’ve been waitin’ for you, Billy Ray!), but you miss the Sylvester song “Do You Wanna Funk”.
7. Soft hands…and a manicure. This is just one of the little establishing details that makes the movie more than a weirdly racist time piece.
8. Bo Diddley’s scene in the pawn shop is gone. They cut Bo Diddley. That’s dumb.
9. I never caught that the stolen crop report is Operation Strange Fruit. Another funny jazz joke I was too young to understand.
10. As Aykroyd and Murphy exit a taxi and walk up to the World Trade Center, Aykroyd says “In this building, it’s either kill or be killed.” This was evidently cut after 9/11 as being insensitive to be said twenty years before a terrorist attack.
11. However, Dan Aykroyd in blackface can’t be cut because he’s in three scenes with it, but there’s a warning before the opening credits that there’s blackface.
12. “Motherfuckers” become “Moneygrabbers.”
What’s left of the film is still funny…but not as intricate, rich, and full of sidebar causal if-then happenings.
There is an edited scene that appeared on some televised screenings to make it closer to two hours with commercials, where Clarence Beeks drugs a security guard to take crop report documents out of a safe deposit box. It does not appear in this cut, either.
This has been an overly nerdy post that amused me to think about on my airplane ride home.
Also, this is a Christmas movie.