Weird History
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9 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'City Slickers'

June 3, 2021 1.4k votes 266 voters 12.0k views9 items

List RulesVote up the 'City Slickers' stories that help you appreciate the '90s comedy classic.

First released in 1991, City Slickers has become a cherished classic. It perfectly captures the experience of men struggling with midlife crisis and doubting their own masculinity, and manages to be a hilarious comedy, a rousing adventure, and a touching drama all at the same time. It also has a quality of so many '80s and '90s movies: It seems to belong to a simpler, pre-internet, pre-smartphone world some little part of people aches to return to.

Shooting City Slickers was, according to its lead actors and director, a wonderful experience. Billy Crystal and his co-stars really got to do all the fun cowboy-ish stuff their characters do. Even so, like any movie shoot, it was not without its hitches, quirks, and surprises. 

  • 1

    Billy Crystal Fell In Love With His Character's Horse, And Kept Him

    Billy Crystal's character rides a horse named named Beechnut, and the two hit it off from the start. "This is such a great horse," Crystal noted in the DVD commentary. "He really was like a great athlete."

    The rapport between Crystal and Beechnut was so strong that the production's horse wrangler gave Beechnut to Crystal after filming was over. They reunited for City Slickers II a few years later, and Crystal even rode Beechnut off the stage at the 1991 Academy Awards.

    Crystal recalled their time together in later years:

    I would go and sit and read and he would graze in the background. He'd always put his head on my shoulder. It was an affectionate, unusual relationship I had with this incredible horse.

    Beechnut stayed with Crystal for the rest of his life, until the horse became ill in 2008 and had to be put down.

  • Photo: The Magnificent Seven / United Artists

    When Offered The Part Of Curly, Charles Bronson Said 'F*ck You'

    Although Jack Palance had always been Billy Crystal's first choice to play Curly, there was a period when it looked like a scheduling conflict would prevent him from doing so. Crystal reached out to another Western icon, Charles Bronson, to see if he would be willing to do it.

    Here is how that went, according to an excerpt from Crystal's memoir, Still Foolin' Em:

    [Bronson's] agent assured us that he would read the script right away... The next day I was told to be at my office at a certain time as Mr. Bronson would be calling me. I sat by the phone, nervous about talking to him. The phone rang.

    "Hello," I said cheerfully.

    "F*ck you," he replied. I waited for the punchline. There wasn't one.

    "F*ck you. I'm dead on Page 64! How dare you send this to me."

    I wasn't sure if he was joking or not.

    "You have a lot of nerve," he went on. "I don't die in my films." I was about to remind him that he died in The Magnificent Seven, but before I could, he said it again: "F*ck you."

    "Mr. Bronson, I'm sorry you feel this way. It's a great part."

    "No, it's not - I'm dead on Page 60-f*cking-four." And he hung up.

    Fortunately, the scheduling conflict evaporated, and Palance was able to play Curly, as Crystal had wanted all along.

  • 3

    Jack Palance Threw A Hissy Fit On His First Day

    For the part of Curly, the super-tough trail boss who embodies every stereotype of Western manliness, Billy Crystal always knew he wanted Jack Palance, whom he'd first seen on screen decades earlier as the villain in Shane.

    In the DVD commentary, Crystal recalled:

    [W]e had been shooting for about four weeks prior to [Palance's first day on set]. We were waiting for Jack... I had called him the Big Cat, and the Big Cat was coming.

    But he initially balked at taking orders from director Ron Underwood. When Underwood told Palance to give Crystal a glare in his first scene, "for some reason Jack went crazy," Crystal recalled. Underwood recalled Palance saying, "I don't do glares." Crystal remembered Palance "screaming and kicking his hat" and saying, "I'd rather do game shows! Get me back to Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

    After a while, however, Palance calmed down and played the scene superbly.

    "Later in the day," Underwood recalled, "Jack came up, sat next to me, and just sort of took his hat off and hit my leg with it, and said, 'Just first-day jitters.'"

    Palance won the best supporting actor Oscar for the role.

  • 4

    Billy Crystal's 'Best Day' Monologue Was A True Story

    One of the most moving moments in City Slickers is the scene where Mitch (Billy Crystal), Phil (Daniel Stern), and Ed (Bruno Kirby) recount the best and worst days in their life.

    Mitch describes being taken by his father to see a game at Yankee Stadium for the first time, in the era when Mickey Mantle was playing:

    We had a black and white TV, so this was the first game I ever saw in color. I sat there the whole game next to my dad. He taught me how to keep score. Mickey hit one out... I still have the program.

    In the DVD commentary, Crystal revealed that the story was all true - his own father had taken him to Yankee Stadium, just as described.

    Later, Yankee Stadium even showed clips from City Slickers during baseball games.