I’ve been thinking about the Dukes.
Not those of Amboy, not those of Edinburgh, not even those you put up.
I’m thinking of Randolph and Mortimer Duke, the fictional brothers who appeared in two movies, and who were played with aplomb by Hollywood greats Don Ameche (Randolph) and Ralph Bellamy (Mortimer).
Their characters appear in two outstanding comedies from the ’80s: “Trading Places” and “Coming to America” — back when “Saturday Night Live” comics could graduate successfully to the big screen.
In 1983’s “Trading Places,” Ralph and Mortimer played main roles. They placed a $1 bet on whether they could ruin Louis Winthorpe III, a snooty rich accountant in their employ, played by Dan Ackroyd, while turning Eddie Murphy’s character, Billy Ray Valentine, from a bum into a valued employee.
Murphy’s character and Ackroyd’s character end up uniting and turning the tables. They manipulate the Dukes into making a huge bet on orange futures then twist the market to the good guys’ advantage.
The Dukes are ruined. Roll closing credits.
Murphy brought them back in his 1988 movie “Coming to America.” In their cameo, the Dukes have been reduced to homeless men. Murphy, now playing an African prince representing the kingdom of Zamunda, is in search of a bride.
The Dukes’ cameo doesn’t last long. It ends when Prince Akeem (Murphy) walks up. He sees the sad Dukes on the street. He gives them a wad of bills.
“Mortimer,” Randolph says, “We’re back in business!”
Let’s see … Crooked, greedy Wall Street operatives. They fleece the public and get away with it, for a while. Eventually, they’re seen as crooks and go broke. Then, the government sweeps in and hands them a big bag of money. They carry on as before.
I wish life didn’t imitate art so much.
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