Don Ameche did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mortimer Duke in Trading Places.
One of the reasons I choose to review Don Ameche in this film was that the only time I have reviewed him so far was for his Oscar winning performance which I was not particularly favorable to. Of course that was a case of the recognition being more of the problem than his performance as it is very unlikely any actor could have been able to do much with the thin role he had in Cocoon. Any I felt I kinda owed him a review of a performance that would have been a much more interesting Oscar win. After all it was his first theatrically released film after a very long hiatus from the cinema. Although that is easy enough to answer why he was not nominated through the nature of his part and the nature of film. Actually Denholm Elliot was recognized for the film even winning the BAFTA for it. Elliot is good in the film, but knowing the BAFTAs and their love of Elliot there was no way they would have recognized anyone else before him.
Ameche plays one of the Duke brothers who decide to manipulate a few lives for their own personal enjoyment. The other elder brother Randolph is played by another golden age of Hollywood alum Ralph Bellamy. Both Bellamy and Ameche are decidedly against the types that played in the old days this time playing the villains. Bellamy plays Randolph as a sorta of a kindly old man although this only hides the fact that he is quite sinister still. Ameche is more to the point playing Mortimer as very directly dismissive of people who he views lower than him, and that happens to be pretty much everyone even seemingly his brother at times. Ameche attunes his performance rather brilliantly here as it would have been easy enough to be just the angry the rich man who gets his comeuppance by our comedic heroes, which often the case in many comedies. No, instead Ameche tries hard to be just as funny but in his own way.
Ameche goes about being a straight man of sorts in his portrayal of Mortimer Duke and is quite adept at being funny while still fulfilling his role as one of the film's villains. Ameche is great in his constantly disgusted reactions at those who he views lower than him, which since that's most everyone these are never in short supply. Ameche plays it with a hilarious yet silent intensity as their is such a venomous disgust in his eyes in his glances. Ameche establishes himself as a humorous factor in every scene he is in merely for his pitch perfect reactions he gives to Mortimer in any situation. It could have been simple enough just to let Eddie Murphy show off with his ad-libs, but Ameche never lets Murphy steal the show. Ameche never allows himself to be overshadowed though staying with Murphy all the way, and perhaps even stealing some of the limelight from him with his commanding yet comedic way as Mortimer.
One of Ameche's best moments was an unintentional one apparently where he's thrown back a money clip and clumsily pops it up several times until he finally catches it. One has to give credit to Ameche and Bellamy for staying in character, and Ameche, although technically messed up, plays it off like a total boss creating quite the funny scene. My absolute favorite scene of Ameche's is at the end of the film when the two men they played with get back at them causing the Duke brothers to lose all of their money. Ameche makes the most of the moment as he finally shows Mortimer completely lose his reserve, and basically finally spewing the sort of sentiment that was in his mind in most of the other scenes in the film. Ameche loses his "four letter word for excrement" is absolutely hilarious to witness, and only wish that it had gone on for a little longer. This is all together a very entertaining performance by Don Ameche, and hey if the Academy had wanted to throw him a win, like they apparently did, I certainly could have stood behind it if it was for this turn.