City Slickers

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City Slickers
City Slickers.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed by Ron Underwood
Written by Lowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Produced byIrby Smith
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Music by Marc Shaiman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 7, 1991 (1991-06-07)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million [1] [2]
Box office$180 million [3]

City Slickers is a 1991 American comedy western 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 with Jake Gyllenhaal in his debut. For his performance, Jack Palance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.


The film's screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and it was shot in New York City; New Mexico; Durango, Colorado; and Spain. A sequel City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold was released in 1994, with the same cast, with the exception of Kirby, who was replaced by Jon Lovitz.


In Pamplona, Spain, middle-aged friends Mitch Robbins, Ed Furrilo, and Phil Berquist, participate in the running of the bulls. Back home in New York City, Mitch realizes he and his friends use adventure trips as escapism from their mundane lives.

Mitch hates his radio advertising sales job. Phil is trapped in a loveless marriage to his wife Arlene while managing his father-in-law's supermarket (who also bullies Phil). Ed is a successful sporting goods salesman who recently married a much younger woman but is unwilling to fully settle down.

At Mitch's 39th birthday party, Phil and Ed give Mitch a trip for all three to go on a two-week cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. Phil's 20-year-old employee unexpectedly arrives at the party and announces she is pregnant with his baby, causing Arlene to walk out. Mitch's wife, Barbara, insists he go on the cattle drive to soul search for a new purpose in his life.

In New Mexico, the trio meet ranch owner, Clay Stone, and their fellow cattle drivers: entrepreneurial brothers Barry and Ira Shalowitz, young and attractive Bonnie, and father-son dentists, Ben and Steve Jessup. Mitch confronts ranch hands, Jeff and T.R., when they begin sexually harassing Bonnie. Trail boss Curly intervenes, though he inadvertently humiliates Mitch.

During the drive, Mitch accidentally causes a stampede which destroys the camp. While searching for stray cows, Mitch discovers Curly has a kind nature beneath his gruff exterior. Curly encourages Mitch to discover the "one thing" in his life that is most important to him. Along the way, Mitch helps deliver a calf from a dying cow. Mitch names the calf Norman.

Shortly after, Curly suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the drive under Jeff and T.R.'s control. The camp cook, Cookie, gets drunk and inadvertently destroys the food supply, breaking his leg in the process.

After the Jessups leave to take Cookie to a nearby town, Jeff and T.R. become intoxicated. A fight ensues when they threaten to kill Norman and assault Mitch. Phil and Ed intervene, and Phil holds Jeff at gunpoint, which unleashes his pent-up emotions. Soon after, Jeff and T.R. abandon the group. Bonnie and the Shalowitzes continue on to the Colorado ranch, while Ed and Phil remain behind to finish the drive. Mitch also leaves but soon returns to rejoin his friends.

After braving a heavy storm, they drive the herd to Colorado. When Norman nearly drowns as the herd crosses a river, Mitch acts to save him. Both are swept down current, but Phil and Ed rescue them. They safely reach the Colorado ranch. When Stone offers to reimburse everyone's fee, the Jessups prefer going on a future cattle drive. However, Clay reveals he is selling the herd to a meat packing company. Mitch, Phil, and Ed initially believe they saved the cattle for nothing, but decide to use their experience to help re-evaluate their lives.

The men return to New York City. Mitch, a happier man, reunites with Barbara and their two children; he has also brought Norman home as a pet. Phil learns his employee was never pregnant, and he begins a relationship with Bonnie. Ed intends to start a family with his wife. Mitch is ready to restart his life with a new vision.



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. [4] [ failed verification ]

In his 2013 memoir, Still Foolin' Em, Billy Crystal writes of how the casting of the film came about. "Palance," he says, "was the first choice from the beginning, but had a commitment to make another film." He wrote 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, originally cast as Phil, had to leave the production due to his wife's illness. Daniel Stern was a late replacement in the role. [5] The film was also the debut of actor Jake Gyllenhaal.


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, City Slickers received a "Certified Fresh" 88% rating based on 43 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a supremely talented cast and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs." [6] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on reviews from 25 critics. [7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on a scale of A+ to F. [8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4 and wrote: "City Slickers comes packaged as one kind of movie – a slapstick comedy about white-collar guys on a dude ranch – and it delivers on that level while surprising me by being much more ambitious, and successful, than I expected. This is the proverbial comedy with the heart of truth, the tear in the eye along with the belly laugh. It's funny, and it adds up to something." [9]

Awards and honors

Jack Palance, for his role as Curly, won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which was the only Oscar nomination the film received. His acceptance speech for the award is best remembered for his demonstration of one-armed push-ups, [10] which he claimed convinced studio insurance agents that he was healthy enough to work on the film. Billy Crystal was the Academy Awards host, and used the humorous incident for several jokes throughout the evening. Later that night, Palance placed the Oscar on Crystal'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." 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.

20/20 AwardsBest Supporting Actor Jack Palance Nominated
Academy Awards [11] Best Supporting Actor Won
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Billy Crystal Won
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Bruno Kirby Nominated
Jack PalanceWon
Daniel Stern Nominated
Artios Awards [12] Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Comedy Pam DixonNominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Marc Shaiman Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards [13] Best Supporting Actor Jack PalanceNominated
Genesis Awards Best Feature FilmWon
Golden Globe Awards [14] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Billy CrystalNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Jack PalanceWon
MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance Billy CrystalWon
People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedy Motion PictureWon

The film is also recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Curly: "Day ain't over yet."
– Nominated [16]

The film is ranked No. 73 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".

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