Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Underwood|
|Produced by||Irby Smith|
|Written by||Lowell Ganz
|Music by||Marc Shaiman|
|Edited by||O. Nicholas Brown|
Castle Rock Entertainment
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
City Slickers is a 1991 American western comedy film directed by Ron Underwood and starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby and Jack Palance, with supporting roles by Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater and Noble Willingham.
The film's script was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and the film was shot in New York City; New Mexico; Durango, Colorado; and in Spain. The film's success spawned a sequel, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, which was released in 1994.
New Yorker Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) has just turned 39 years old, and is having a midlife crisis. His best friends are also having crises of their own: Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) is stuck managing his father-in-law's grocery store, while trapped in a 12-year sexless marriage with his overbearing wife, Arlene, and Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) is a successful sporting-goods salesman and playboy, having recently married an underwear model, but is struggling with the idea of monogamous marriage and the pressure to have kids.
At Mitch's birthday party, Phil and Ed present a joint gift: a two-week cattle drive in the southwestern US. Mitch initially refuses, having promised to visit wife Barbara's (Patricia Wettig) parents in Florida. However, when a young check-out girl (Yeardley Smith) from Phil's grocery store inadvertently reveals an affair they had, Arlene files for divorce, and Phil is dismissed from his job. Barbara insists that Mitch go along both to cheer up Phil and to help himself find some purpose before he is tempted into adultery and/or suicide.
In New Mexico, they meet ranch owner Clay Stone (Noble Willingham) and others there for the cattle drive. As they "learn the ropes" of moving a herd, there is a tense encounter with the ranch's professional cowboys, Jeff and T.R. (Kyle Secor and Dean Hallo), who drunkenly proposition vacationer Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater). The standoff is abruptly halted when Curly Washburn (Jack Palance), the tough-as-nails trail boss, lassos Jeff into a chokehold, then chastises both for being intoxicated on the job. He demands an apology to Bonnie, who appreciates Mitch's efforts on her behalf.
Curly, Jeff, T.R., and the ranch's guests begin the long drive to Colorado. Curly overhears Mitch insult him and later humiliates Mitch in retaliation. After a destructive stampede is Mitch's fault, as punishment Curly chooses a fearful Mitch to accompany him to find stray cows. They spend the night alone and slowly begin to bond. Mitch discovers that despite Curly's tough exterior, he is a very wise man. Curly advises him how to face his problems: by singling out the "one thing" that is most important in life.
The next morning, Curly and Mitch deliver a pregnant cow's calf. Curly is forced to euthanize its ailing mother by delivering a coup de grace, so Mitch informally adopts the newborn and names it Norman.
The drive runs into trouble when Curly unexpectedly suffers a fatal heart attack. As they proceed without him, Cookie the cook (Tracey Walter) gets drunk and breaks both his legs, requiring him to be taken to a hospital. Without Curly's presence, Jeff and T.R. become freely intoxicated, goading Mitch into challenging them. Ed intervenes and Phil disarms both, furiously ordering them to go to bed.
Fearing reprisals from their boss, Jeff and T.R. abandon the city folk in the wilderness, leaving them with no trail boss, food, or map. The vacationers decide to abandon the herd and seek civilization, except for Ed and Phil, who insist on driving the cattle to Colorado despite Mitch's opposition. The others ride on ahead, but Mitch unexpectedly returns (wearing Curly's black hat) to rejoin his fellow "city slickers" and finish the drive.
The final test involves crossing a dangerous river. Despite a violent storm, the men successfully drive most of the herd across, but Norman the calf is caught up in the river's rapid current. Mitch impulsively gives chase and successfully lassos it, but in turn gets caught in the rapids; seeing this, Phil and Ed rush to save Mitch and Norman. As the men collapse on the river bank, life's problems seem far behind them. From there the three easily lead the herd to the Colorado ranch, where they are warmly received by the others. Clay Stone, overwhelmed, rewards the entire group, and the trio in particular, by fully refunding their fees. To their dismay, however, Stone has decided to sell the cows to a meat company for a fine price.
Ed returns home to tell his newlywed wife he is fine with having children. Phil starts a new relationship with Bonnie. Mitch returns to New York with Norman as a happier man, having realized that he is his "one thing". Mitch explains he has spared Norman from the slaughter by purchasing him and bringing him home.
- Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins
- Daniel Stern as Phil Berquist
- Bruno Kirby as Ed Furillo
- Patricia Wettig as Barbara Robbins
- Helen Slater as Bonnie Rayburn
- Jack Palance as Curly Washburn
- Noble Willingham as Clay Stone
- Tracey Walter as Cookie
- Jeffrey Tambor as Lou
- Josh Mostel as Barry Shalowitz
- David Paymer as Ira Shalowitz
- Bill Henderson as Dr. Ben Jessup
- Phill Lewis as Dr. Steve Jessup
- Kyle Secor as Jeff
- Dean Hallo as T.R.
- Karla Tamburrelli as Arlene Berquist
- Yeardley Smith as Nancy (the checkout girl who reveals her affair with Phil)
- Robert Costanzo as Sal Morelli (the rude father in Danny's class show-and-tell)
- Walker Brandt as Kim Furillo
- Molly McClure as Millie Stone
- Jane Alden as Mrs. Green
- Lindsay Crystal as Holly Robbins (Mitch's daughter; Lindsay Crystal is Billy Crystal's real life daughter)
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Robbins (Mitch's son; this was Jake Gyllenhaal's film debut at age 10)
- Danielle Harris as Classroom student
- Eddie Palmer as Classroom student
- Howard Honig as Skycap
- Fred Maio as Doctor
- Jayne Meadows as the voice of Mitch's mother
- Alan Charof as the voice of Mitch's father
- Frank Welker as Norman the calf (voice)
The film received mostly positive reviews with a "Fresh" score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jack Palance, for his role as Curly, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the only Oscar nomination the film received. His acceptance speech for the award is best remembered for his demonstration of one-armed push-ups, which he claimed convinced studio insurance agents that he was healthy enough to work on the film. Billy Crystal was hosting the Academy Awards that night, and used the humorous incident for several jokes afterward that evening. The next year's Oscars opened with Palance appearing to drag in a giant Academy Award, with Crystal (again the host) riding on the opposite end.
Palance and Crystal both were nominated for Golden Globes for their performances, in separate categories, though only Palance won.
The film's plot, which consists of inexperienced cowboys battling villains as they press on with their cattle drive after the death of their leader, was conceived to be similar to John Wayne's The Cowboys, although that was a Western drama as opposed to a comedy.
In his 2013 memoir, Still Foolin' Em, Billy Crystal writes of how the casting of City Slickers came about. Palance, he says, was the first choice from the beginning, but had a commitment to make another film. Crystal writes that he contacted Charles Bronson about the part, only to be rudely rebuffed because the character dies. Palance got out of his other obligation to join the cast. Rick Moranis, however, originally cast as Phil, had to leave the production due to his wife's illness. Daniel Stern was a late replacement in the role.
On the night Palance won the Academy Award, according to Crystal, the 73-year-old actor placed the Oscar on the comedian's shoulder and said, "Billy Crystal ... who thought it would be you?" Crystal added in his book: "We had a glass of champagne together, and I could only imagine what Charles Bronson was thinking as he went to sleep that night."
Awards and honors
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs #86
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Mitch Robbins: Hi, Curly, kill anyone today? Curly: Day ain't over yet." - Nominated
- Best Supporting Actor in a Supporting Role for Jack Palance at the 1992 Academy Awards Won
- Best Supporting Actor for Jack Palance at the 49th Golden Globe Awards Won
- Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical/Comedy for Billy Crystal at the 46th Golden Globe Awards Nomination
- Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical at the 46th Golden Globe Awards Nomination
- Genesis Award for Best Feature Film Won
In popular culture
- The Billy Crystal episode of Muppets Tonight featured a parody entitled "City Schtickers," with Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear in Kirby and Stern's roles.
- DVD & film details giving "an estimated budget of $26 million". Tower.com. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
- "City Slicker (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
- City Slickers at Rotten Tomatoes and was also a box office success. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
- The Cowboys - Similar Movies at MovieFone. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
- City Slickers at the Internet Movie Database
- City Slickers at Box Office Mojo
- City Slickers at Rotten Tomatoes