Summer Movies: The Great Body Switch Next up in Talk of the Nation's Summer Movie Series is the identity switch. From Freaky Friday to Heaven Can Wait, Hollywood has been body switching for decades: men to women, women to men, parents to kids — it's all been done and redone. What's your favorite body switch movie?
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Summer Movies: The Great Body Switch

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Summer Movies: The Great Body Switch

Summer Movies: The Great Body Switch

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NEAL CONAN, host: And next in our series, one of the oldest movie gags: You wake up feeling somehow different.


JODIE FOSTER: (as Ellen Andrews) You see that I am diametrically different from the Annabel you all know, correct? All right. Now listen very carefully. I'm not Annabel.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: (as character) Who are you?

FOSTER: (as Annabel Andrews) I'm her mother.


CONAN: The 1976 film "Freaky Friday," where a very young Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris endure a mother-daughter switch. Hollywood always found the body swap - and sometimes the twin swap - a very useful plot device, and so much fun that they recycled more than a few of them.

What's your favorite swap movie? You can reach us at 800-989-8255. Email us: You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to, click on TALK OF THE NATION. And of course, our favorite movie buff, Murray Horwitz, joins us here in Studio 3A. Welcome back, Murray.

MURRAY HORWITZ: It's good to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And ground rules for this. What qualifies as a body swap?

HORWITZ: Yeah, this is tough because, I mean, preferably, it's really a switch, a real trade, someone else assuming the other's identity. It's - this should be a simple category, but it's not. The idea, as you mentioned, is a very old one. I mean, I was thinking of Jacob and Esau, you know.

CONAN: Right. There you go.

HORWITZ: It's very essentially human, imagining that you're someone else, you know? I mean, literature and theater and dance - certainly, the movies - have figured out so many devices for bringing that idea to life. So we've got body swap movies and evil twin movies, and mistaken identity movies. Basically, we're saying these are movies that play on the experience of living in someone else's body or shoes, you know? I mean, it can be by mistake or manipulation or whatever, but preferably not just switching positions, not just switching jobs - like "Trading Places" or something like that - but switching bodies.

CONAN: And as you say, there are the diametric opposites: the old-young switch...


CONAN: ...the evil-good switch, the rich-poor switch - "Prince and the Pauper."

HORWITZ: Yes, exactly that. And somebody, you know, put into another body, like the - well, "The Invisible Man" is put into no body.

CONAN: Right.


HORWITZ: Two people switching identities, as you say; two people inhabiting one body; or one person inhabiting two, like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," or the Queen and the Witch in "Snow White." But it's an old - I guess we're open to accepting somebody assuming another identity, pretending to be someone else, like in "Tootsie"...

CONAN: Oh, then it's Peter Sellers.

[POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: Dustin Hoffman starred in "Tootsie." Neal Conan mentioned actor Peter Sellers because Sellers starred in many films where he played multiple roles.]

HORWITZ: Right, right.


HORWITZ: Anybody, right?

CONAN: Yeah.

HORWITZ: But preferably a real trade, as I say.

CONAN: All right. If you think you know one of these great switch movies, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Nominate your favorite. Email: And let's see if we can begin with Doyle(ph) - Doyle with us from Reno in Nevada.

DOYLE: Yeah, my favorite switch is "The Metamorphosis," by Kafka. Gregor Samsa woke up to discover he had become a bug.

HORWITZ: Yeah. And what is Zero Mostel's rejoinder? No, it's too good. It's too good - something like that, in "The Producers."


HORWITZ: It's - yeah.

CONAN: Yeah. But is that a movie?

HORWITZ: It's not a swap. And was it - yeah, was there a movie of "Metamorphosis"?

DOYLE: No, I don't know.

HORWITZ: All right. Disqualified.


CONAN: OK. Never mind. Thanks.

HORWITZ: But thanks. Thanks, Doyle.

CONAN: Interesting idea. Let's see. We go next to - this is Charice (ph), Charice with us from Kansas City.


CONAN: Hi. You're on the air.

CHAUNCY: Hi. My name is Chauncy(ph), and I'm calling from Kansas City.

CONAN: I apologize for mispronouncing your name.

CHAUNCY: That's all right. The favorite movie, which movie I like was "Multiplicity," with Michael Keaton.

HORWITZ: This is a new one on me. Tell us about it, Chauncy.

CONAN: Well, "Multiplicity," Michael Keaton cloned himself so that he could do all of the different things that he couldn't do. He could be the house dad. He could be - fix the repairs. He could go to work. He could do - but he's not...

CHAUNCY: That's right.

CONAN: ...he's not going into a different body. He's going to the same body several times.

CHAUNCY: Yeah, but the switch was just an incredible switch because they caught me off guard. I couldn't tell if it was really him or the clone of him.

CONAN: All right.

HORWITZ: Well, that's true. And it is - and confusing the audience is one of the big - I'm sure back in Shakespeare's day, that was one of the big...

CONAN: It tended to be, as I remember my Shakespeare. But...


HORWITZ: It's a good idea, Chauncy. Thanks so much.

CHAUNCY: Thank you.

CONAN: Good nomination. Let's see if we go to - this is Sue, and Sue is on the line from Nashville.

SUE: Hi. My favorite movie, which is a really underappreciated one, I think, is 1984's "All of Me."

CONAN: Ah. This is the Lily Tomlin and...

SUE: Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin, right.

CONAN: Right. A Carl Reiner movie. And a dying millionaire has had her soul transferred into - well, she didn't know it at the time, but a lawyer's body.


LILY TOMLIN: (as Edwina Cutwater) Where am I?

STEVE MARTIN: (as Roger Cobb) What?

TOMLIN: (as Edwina Cutwater) I'm breathing. I must be alive.

MARTIN: (as Roger Cobb) Who said that?

TOMLIN: (as Edwina Cutwater) No, it can't be. I just died.

MARTIN: (as Roger Cobb) I'm picking up "General Hospital" in my fillings.

TOMLIN: (as Edwina Cutwater) It worked. Oh, my Lord.

CONAN: And then Steve goes into the physical routine.

SUE: Exactly.

CONAN: Sue, that is an amazing movie because the dialogue between I'm getting "General Hospital" in my fillings, what a great line.


HORWITZ: Well, it is - after all, it is Carl Reiner. But there's only - actually, a couple of other switches because, you know, there's the planned one as Lily Tomlin takes over the bod - Victoria Tennant. And as punishment for plotting against her, Victoria Tennant takes over the body of a horse at the end of the movie.

SUE: Oh, that's right.


SUE: You know, I'd forgotten that. But I'm not - I think I'm going to go rent it again. It's just one of those wonderful little movies that I enjoy so much - and "Face Off."

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much for the call.

HORWITZ: All right.

CONAN: Let's see if we go next to - this is Leo, Leo with us from Stockton, California.

LEO: Hi. How are you doing?

CONAN: Very well. Thanks.

LEO: Cool. My favorite would have to be the Citizen Kane of all swap movies, and that would be "Being John Malkovich."

CONAN: "Being John Malkovich" is a weird and wonderful film. Somebody once wrote that John Malkovich should've gotten two Oscars: one for playing the role, and the other for getting it.


CONAN: Of course, "Being John Malkovich" is about being just that, being John Malkovich.


JOHN CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) We operate a little business here that simulates, for our clientele, well, the experience of being you, actually.

JOHN MALKOVICH: (as John Malkovich) Simulate?

CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) Yeah, after a fashion.

MALKOVICH: (as John Malkovich) What, exactly, does that mean?

CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) Well, it's hard to describe.

MALKOVICH: (as John Malkovich) I want to do it then.

CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) I'm sure that would pale in comparison to the actual experience.

MALKOVICH: (as John Malkovich) I want to do it!

CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) Well, right now, Mr. Hiroshi's in the tube, and he's got about...

CATHERINE KEENER: (as Maxine Lund) Let him do it, Craig.

CUSACK: (as Craig Schwartz) Of course. Right this way, Mr. Malkovich, compliments of the house.


HORWITZ: Yeah, I'm telling you, that movie, you can't tell the Malkoviches without a score card, you know? And...

LEO: Exactly.

HORWITZ: Right. Probably - and Charlie Kaufman, the writer of the screenplay, said that he - even before he'd ever met or talked to John Malkovich, he had John Malkovich in mind just because he thought the name sounded great when everybody sits there repeating Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich.

CONAN: And it wouldn't have worked if it was "Being Tom Cruise."

HORWITZ: Right. Cruise, Cruise, Cruise. Doesn't work.

CONAN: Doesn't work. Leo, thanks very much.

LEO: Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you.

CONAN: So long. Here's an email from Kim in San Francisco: I'd like to nominate "Prelude to a Kiss" with Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin. It's a unique take on a genre where at a wedding, an old man, jealous of the love between Ryan and Baldwin's characters, asked to kiss the new bride. The kiss somehow brings around the switch. It's very funny as all the characters dodge and dance around the new existence - and very moving as all the characters learn about the true nature of love.

HORWITZ: And it's got a terrific cast. It's like - Alec Baldwin, Meg Ryan, Stanley Tucci is in this movie, Kathy Bates, Debra Monk, Ned Beatty. It's - yeah. It's - Norman Rene directed. It's terrific.

CONAN: Let's see if we go next to Tom, and Tom is with us from Circleville, Ohio.

TOM: Hi. Thanks for having me on the show. "Big," I nominate "Big."

HORWITZ: "Big." Would "Big" qualify, Murray?

Well, it's, you know, again, sort of a fuzzy category. We had a hard time with this one. But yes, we're saying yes. Again, it's not an actual body switch but certainly, a 13-year-old David Moscow in a 30-year-old Tom Hanks' body. And what may be the biggest hit of all of these - I mean, Zoltar speaks and America listens, you know?

CONAN: Well, it's also Josh Baskin gets his soul stuck in his older self, and his best friend feels pretty left out.


JARED RUSHTON: (as Billy Kopecki) You're Josh Baskin, remember? You broke your arm on my roof. You hid in my basement when Robert Dyson was about to rip your head off.

TOM HANKS: (as Josh Baskin) You don't get it, do you? This is important.

RUSHTON: (as Billy Kopecki) I'm your best friend. What's more important than that, huh? And I'm three months older than you are.


CONAN: Very important at that age.

HORWITZ: Yes. And let us not forget - it had nothing to do with body switching - the tap dance duet on Hoagy Carmichael's "Heart and Soul."

CONAN: It's fantastic. Yes. That's right. Tom, thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Gabriel, Gabriel with us from Nevada, City.

GABRIEL: Hi there.


GABRIEL: Hi. I remember watching this movie when I was a kid. I was really little. And there was this fish swimming in the water, and this guy was singing to it - I wish, I wish, I wish I was a fish. I think it's called "The Incredible Mr. Limpet."

CONAN: Don Knotts.

HORWITZ: Right. That's it. And I, you know - I always thought somehow, this had to do with that classic German fairytale about the, you know, the talking fish that came out of the water on which, I think, Heinrich Boll based a novel or two. But yeah, "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," perfect casting for Don Knotts.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Gabriel. We're getting a lot of votes for "All of Me," including one from Liane(ph) in Bethany Beach. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Jack, Jack with us from Rock Springs in Wyoming.

JACK: Hello. How are you?

CONAN: Good. Thanks.

JACK: Good. I'd like to nominate "18 Again!" where 81-year-old George Burns swaps places with his 18-year-old grandson, played by Sean Penn.

CONAN: Somehow the dapper George Burns becomes even more dapper.


CHARLIE SCHLATTER: (as Jack Watson) Charlie, I got my wish. I'm 18 again.

RED BUTTONS: (as Charlie) What?

SCHLATTER: (as Jack Watson) Easy, Charlie.

BUTTONS: (as Charlie) How did you pull it off?

SCHLATTER: (as Jack Watson) I didn't. I don't know. The accident, somehow, we got switched.

BUTTONS: (as Charlie) You - so David's in - what happens to him?

SCHLATTER: (as Jack Watson) Wish I knew.

BUTTONS: (as Charlie) Oh, my God. Jack Watson, you had it all. You really have it all.

CONAN: What happens? Then he comes back as God.

HORWITZ: He comes - well, actually, I think it's after he played God. But what's amazing about that performance is George Burns is playing an 81-year-old, and he's playing down because he was 92 at the time.


CONAN: What range? What range?

HORWITZ: Right. Right.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Jack.

JACK: Thank you.

CONAN: Email: You can also call us: 800-989-8255. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's see if we can go next to - this is Mike. And Mike is on the line from Richmond.

MIKE: Yes. The movie that I like of this body-switching genre was Danny Kaye in "The Court Jester," where he becomes hypnotized and thinks that he's the dashing Giacamo, whereas his real personality is 180 degrees the opposite. It's just really entertaining to me.

HORWITZ: Yeah. I - we didn't put that on the list because, in a way, there's another Danny Kaye movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty..."

CONAN: Mitty. Yeah.

HORWITZ: ...that does it with just, sort of, you know, changing personalities and stuff like that. But it's not so much inhabiting the body. But that was from the heyday of Danny Kaye, and a terrific movie.

CONAN: Well, another impersonation, I mean, like that, then you're getting on into, well, Gene Kelly becoming the Mack the Black, "The Pirate" of the Caribbean, you know, some...

HORWITZ: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

CONAN: ...and these kinds of impersonations, not kind quite body switches.

HORWITZ: Nah, different. Yeah.

CONAN: Anyway, let's see if we go next to - this is Jim. Jim with us from Spencer in Iowa.

JIM: Yeah. Hi. Really, really funny and almost not body switching, more like body stealing, the insect from outer space that inhabits the farmer's body in "Men in Black." Just a hoot...

HORWITZ: That's, you know, that's a great, great nomination, Jim. I'm glad you mentioned it.

CONAN: I would not have thought of that, but yes.

HORWITZ: Yeah. And Jim hints at a larger point. Most of these movies are comedies. I mean, some - they're either - they fall into the comedy genre or the horror genre. I just saw one the other day - the other night, on TV called "Dead Men Walk," where George Zucco plays himself and his twin brother vampire. So they're either horror or comedy - some dramas, but the real swap tend to be comedies.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the nomination, Jim.

JIM: Absolutely.

CONAN: And there's a terrific picture called "Heaven Can Wait," which is - stars Warren Beatty as, of course, a football player who's moved from his body, as it turns out, prematurely. Heaven makes a mistake.


BUCK HENRY: (as The Escort) Mr. Pendleton, do the words you're not being a good sport mean anything to you?

JAMES MASON: (as Mr. Jordan) Joe, we can put you into another man's body, provided that his death has not yet been discovered.

WARREN BEATTY: (as Joe Pendleton) Are you kidding? You're going to put me into the body of another man? I just got my body back in shape.

CONAN: And not only Warren Beatty, but Buck Henry and James Mason - impossible to miss that.

HORWITZ: James Mason, that's right. And in turn - I mean, I was waiting for somebody to bring that up because that was based, in turn, on "Here Comes Mr. Jordan."

CONAN: One of my - that's the one that gets my vote.

HORWITZ: It's really a wonderful movie.

CONAN: Because James Gleason talks out of the side of his mouth the whole picture.

HORWITZ: Right. James Gleason always talked out of the side of his mouth, Neal, what are you talking about? But that was a 1941 movie directed by Alexander Hall. It really is a classic. And as you pointed out, so many of these movies are remakes of other movies that used the same device. And in fact, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" was remade as "Heaven Can Wait." It was remade as a musical, with Rita Hayworth and Larry Parks, called "Down to Earth." And "Heaven Can Wait" was remade as another "Down to Earth," you know, based on Warren Beatty's screenplay. Elaine May adapted that.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The 1978 film "Heaven Can Wait" is not a remake of the 1943 Ernst Lubitsch film of the same title.]

CONAN: And that was originally an Ernst Lubitsch movie.

HORWITZ: Well, I - was it the same - I mean, "Heaven Can Wait" was an Ernst Lubitsch title, but...

CONAN: No, it was definitely an Ernst Lubitsch movie.


CONAN: Yeah. It was a wonderful picture, wonderful picture. Here's - Greg emails: My favorite swap movie has to be "The Parent Trap" with Lindsay Lohan. This is another one that was actually made twice, "The Parent Trap." Here are both films where one twin reunites with the mother she hadn't seen since she was a baby.


MAUREEN O'HARA: (as Maggie McKendrick) What's the matter, Sharon? Are those tears I see? Oh, darling, what is it?

HAYLEY MILLS: (as Susan Evers) I'm sorry. It's just, I've missed you so much.

CONAN: Hayley Mills there, in the original.

HORWITZ: In the original. And later, Lindsay Lohan, as you mentioned, who kind of is the queen of the genre. She was also in a remake of "Freaky Friday," based on Mary Rodgers' wonderful novel. And I think she shows up in the - maybe she was switching bodies when she did both roles. I don't know.

CONAN: It could be. Well, who gets the Murray?

HORWITZ: Oh, man. This is a tough one, Neal, because, I mean there's - we haven't mentioned "Desperately Seeking Susan" and "Mulholland Drive" and some really, really good movies. We didn't mention "The Invisible Man." Well, we did mention "The Invisible Man." But one that nobody has mentioned, and that has been remade a zillion times - including only 19 years or so, or 20 years after the story was written by Robert Louis Stevenson - was "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." It was made in 1908. It was made in - it's scheduled for 2012. So I mean, it's a very, very important trope, I guess you'd say, or model.

CONAN: And an important contributor to, I guess, psychiatric theory.

HORWITZ: Well, it's - yes. And it's become part of a lexicon. I mean, how many times do we say, oh, he's a real Jekyll and Hyde?It's usually about your boss.

CONAN: We don't have a clip from that movie, Murray.

HORWITZ: Well, I'll tell you one thing, if you need this - if I had one clip, it wouldn't be on the radio anyway because in the version from 1920, John Barrymore does - go to YouTube, or rent the film and see it - John Barrymore does the transformation from Jekyll into Hyde without makeup.

CONAN: Oh, we have that clip. (Pause)

That was it.

HORWITZ: Brilliant. Brilliant. Fantastic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORWITZ: Check it out.

CONAN: Thanks very much. We're going to take a one-break week from our summer movie festival.

HORWITZ: And a one-week break.

CONAN: And when we come back, we're going to come back big - the biggest star of all, Elizabeth Taylor.


CONAN: We'll see you then - the great Elizabeth Taylor movies. Tomorrow, Thomas Vander Ven joins us. He wanted to know why college drink - kids binge drink, so he asked them. "Getting Wasted" is his new book, and the result. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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