Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

City Slickers (1991)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

City Slickers (1991)

In director Ron Underwood's western-adventure comedy that told about a group of three life-long companions - all unhappy, bored 30-ish, white-collar males experiencing mid-life crises and suffering from middle-age; they often joined together to resolve their issues using a process of self-discovery - in particular, by taking adventure 'vacations' (i.e., bull-running, target-parachute jumping, etc.) or weekend warrior outings:

  • in the film's opening set in Pamploma, Spain, the three urban New York thrill-seekers: Manhattan radio-ad salesman Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal), supermarket manager Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) and sporting goods salesman Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) were participating in the dangerous annual 'Running of the Bulls'; the first line of dialogue was Mitch's question: "Whose idea was this anyway?"
  • Mitch was gored in the rear end and had to visit a Spanish doctor for stitches - he nervously asked: ("Don't sew anything up that's supposed to remain open, OK?"); he also blamed Ed for the accident: "It was a 2,000-pound rampaging animal spraying bull snot all over Spain! That's what made me run! You made me stand in front of it!"
  • a year later on Mitch's 39th birthday back in NYC, he was immediately confronted with the issue of his own aging: (1) his mother (voice of Jayne Meadows) phoned to again recall her race to the hospital for his birth, (2) at work, Mitch complained to his Station Manager boss about his life ("Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I'm ever gonna do, this is the best I'm ever gonna feel... and it ain't that great?"); he was criticized for his sub-par work and had his decision-making power reduced, and (3) during 'career day' at his son's grade school, Mitch delivered a morose "What is life?" speech that forecast a bleak future of aging for everyone: "Value this time in your life, kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so fast. When you're a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Thirties - you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself: 'What happened to my twenties?' Forties - you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Fifties - you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a 'procedure', but it's a surgery. Sixties - you'll have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies - you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale. You start eating dinner at two o'clock in the afternoon, you have lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate soft yogurt and muttering: 'How come the kids don't call?' 'How come the kids don't call?' The eighties, you'll have a major stroke. You end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama. Any questions?"
  • Mitch's 39th year birthday party that evening planned by Mitch's wife Barbara (Patricia Wettig) was attended by his friends Ed (with his 24 year-old lingerie model-girlfriend/wife Kim Furillo (Walker Brandt)), and Phil (with his aggravated wife Arlene (Karla Tamburrelli)); during the party, Phil's disgruntled wife learned that Phil had recently impregnated young 20 year-old co-worker/check-out clerk Nancy (Yeardley Smith)) who walked in and revealed she had missed her period; during a hate-fest with Arlene in front of everyone, Phil declared: "I hate you more. If hate were people, I'd be China!"; in anger, Arlene walked out on him - essentially ending their loveless marriage
  • Ed and Phil's birthday gift to Mitch was a 2-week, escapist "adventure trip" driving cattle from New Mexico to Colorado; Barbara encouraged Mitch to attend the cattle drive as a way to revive his passion for life ("Go and - find your smile!"), rather than taking a planned trip to visit her parents in Florida
  • a few weeks later, the three urban mid-lifers arrived at Stone Canyon Ranch in New Mexico, where they met the other "city slicker" guests, including ice-cream entrepreneurial brothers Barry and Ira Shalowitz (Josh Mostel and David Paymer) with "1400 retail outlets from coast to coast", African-American dentists Ben Jessup (Bill Henderson) and his son Steve (Phill Lewis) from Baltimore ("We're black and we're dentists"), and young, newly-single ex-wife Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater) who was recently estranged from her husband

Recently-Single Bonnie Rayburn

Ranch Owner Clay Stone

Southwest Trail Boss Curly's First Appearance
  • the ranch owner Clay Stone (Noble Willingham) invited the 'city slickers' to get ready for the cattle drive by practicing their 'cowboy' skills in the corral; Mitch was resistant: "I have a roping disability," and demonstrated his miserable inability to lasso an object, by arguing about walking up to a cow and manually placing a lasso over its head; he was disproven when a loud whistle spooked the cow who took off while dragging Mitch behind
  • when two of the drunk ranch hands, Jeff (Kyle Secor) and T.R. (Dean Hallo), sexually-harrassed Bonnie with unwanted advances, a confrontation occurred when the threesome came to Bonnie's rescue; the brawl was quickly quelled when the ranch hands were reprimanded by an unnamed, crusty, tough, straight-faced, leather-beaten cowboy; the western character lassoed Jeff by the neck, tethered him to a fence, and threw a Bowie knife at his crotch; Mitch was amazed: "Did you see that guy? That is the toughest man I've ever seen in my life!...Did you see how leathery he was? He was like a saddlebag with eyes!"
  • that evening around a campfire with his friends, Mitch was concerned to learn the identity of their Southwest trail boss - Curly Washburn (Best Supporting Actor-winning Jack Palance); Phil shared a rumor from the cook that Curly once killed a man in a knife fight; Ben added: "He slit him from neck to nuts," and Ed mentioned: "This guy's a cowboy. One of the last real men. He's untamed, a mustang. We're trained ponies. It'll do us good to be in his world for awhile"; meanwhile, Mitch didn't realize that the mythic, intimidating cowboy had walked up and was standing behind him as he denounced him as crazy: "This guy is not normal, I'm tellin' ya. Did you see his eyes? He's got crazy eyes. He's a lunatic! I'm tellin' ya. We're goin' into the wilderness being led by a lunatic!"; he suddenly realized: "He's behind me, isn't he?"; Mitch turned around as Curly bragged to humiliate him: "I crap bigger than you"; Mitch worried to himself as Curly walked away: "He's gonna kill me"
  • a few days later, the group commenced the cattle drive toward Colorado - and Mitch inadvertently spooked the cattle and caused a destructive stampede by turning on a battery-operated coffee grinder in the early morning - the rampaging herd destroyed the campsite; Curly halted the stampede with one gun shot, and then chuckled to himself: "City folk!"
  • during Curly's and Mitch's attempt to round up the missing stray cattle, they were forced to spend the night camping out in the wilderness; Mitch was still wary of Curly - who continually stropped his large Bowie knife on a leather strap; he tried to defuse the situation by telling Curly: "You're sittin' over there playin' with your knife, trying to frighten me - which you're doin' a good job. But if you're gonna kill me, get on with it; if not, shut the hell up - I'm on vacation"; also, his harmonica playing of "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" helped to soften Curly's gruff demeanor when he started to sing along

The Intimidating Curly Sharpening His Bowie Knife

"...if you're gonna kill me, get on with it; if not, shut the hell up"

To Mitch's Harmonica Tune, The Two Sang Around the Campfire
Overnight Camping: Mitch with Curly
  • the next day while riding along, Curly held up one finger to encourage Mitch to discover and honor the unique "one thing" in his life that was important to him - it would turn out to be the secret to a good life: ("One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don't mean s--t...That's what you've gotta figure out")
  • Curly ordered Mitch to assist a dying cow in labor that was about to give birth ("Just reach in and pull out the calf"), although Mitch complained about the birth: "You know, this was not in the brochure"; Mitch helped in delivering the calf by pulling it out - and was amazed by the new life ("Look what I did! I made a cow"); he decided to name the calf "Norman"; sadly, Curly had to euthanize the mother of the orphaned, newborn calf; shortly later after returning to the group on the trail, Mitch explained to Bonnie how he had taught his pet calf to bottle-feed: "Yeah, thank God, 'cause my nipples were killing me"
  • while the group sat around eating a meal, Ira Shalowitz offered a challenge - "Barry can pick out the right flavor of ice cream to follow any meal. Go ahead. Challenge him"; Mitch tried to stump them with a complex meal choice: "Sea Bass... Sauteed...Potatoes au gratin. Asparagus"; Barry paused, concentrated, and then answered: "Rum raisin!"; the two brothers high-fived each other and exclaimed: "WOOF!"

The Ice Cream Challenge - The Two Brothers High-Fived Each Other: "WOOF!"

Bonnie's Amazement About How Her Husband and Males in the Group Memorized Baseball Trivia
  • Bonnie explained to the others why she had broken up with her husband, who was "like a baseball encyclopedia": "We had different needs. I needed him to treat me decently and get a job, and he needed to empty my bank account and leave....I like baseball. I just never understood how you guys could spend so much time discussing it. I mean, I've been to games, but I don't memorize who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960" - her statement caused all three males to answer her trivia question: "Don Hoak" - and she felt vindicated: "See, that's exactly what I mean"
  • as the scene continued, Phil asked about what she often discussed with her female friends, and she answered: "Well, real life. Relationships. Are they working? Are they not? Who's she seeing? Is that working?"; Ed mocked her response: "Honey, if that were as interesting as baseball, they'd have cards for it and sell it with gum"
  • shortly later, Mitch discovered that Curly had suffered a fatal heart attack while sitting and watching over the cattle from a rocky perch; he was buried on the trail marked with a simple wooden memorial cross during a somber funeral ceremony; Phil mused: "The man ate bacon at every meal - I mean, you, you can't do that!"; the camp's cook Cookie (Tracy Walter) offered the only eulogy: "Lord, we give you Curly. Try not to piss him off"
  • the cattle drive continued, with T.R. and Jeff directing the group; during the drive while on horseback, Phil, Ed, and Mitch shared stories about the best and worst days of their lives: Mitch (BEST - his first visit to Yankee Stadium with his father, and WORST - the day his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, although it was later determined to be nothing), Phil (BEST - his outdoors wedding day, and WORST - "every day since is a tie"), and Ed (BEST and WORST - when he was 14 years old, the day his cheating father left their family)
  • while riding along, Mitch sang the Theme from Rawhide - ending with his imitation of a horse snorting: "Rollin', rollin', rollin', keep them dogies rollin', man my ass is swollen, Rawhide! Get 'em up, move 'em out, wake 'em up, get 'em dressed, get 'em shaved, comb their hair, Rawhide! Tie me down, tell me lies, pull my hair, smack my thighs - with a big wet strap of Rawhide!"
  • further mishaps included the destruction of the group's food supply by the drunken Cookie when he drove the horse-drawn cook-wagon into a ravine and also broke both legs when he jumped free; also, both horses Skyrocket and Buttercup died and were buried; Mitch worried that Cookie might be mercy-killed: "Oh God, they're gonna shoot him, I know it, they're gonna shoot him"; the Jessups volunteered to take Cookie to a nearby town for treatment (Ben: "He's injured and we have medical training. We're dentists!"); his son asked: "Are we gonna give him a cleaning?"
  • after an altercation between the two intoxicated ranch-hands (shooting recklessly) and Mitch and Phil ("I hate bullies") who grabbed a gun to threaten them, the group was left leaderless and guideless when T.R. and Jeff deserted them: ("They skedaddled!"); the abandoned group eventually resolved to continue on their way with the herd to Colorado
  • on their way, Phil and Mitch argued about how a DVR TV box worked (Mitch: "If you want to watch one show, but record another show at the same time, the television set does not have to be on channel 3", Phil: "You're saying I can record something I'm not even watching?", Mitch: "Yes, that's the point. You don't even need a TV to record....Well to see it, you need a TV"); Ed interrupted both of them: "He doesn't get it! He'll never get it! It's been 4 hours! The cows can tape something by now! Forget about it - please!"; the technologically-challenged Phil ended the conversation by adding: "How do you do the clock?"
  • during the treacherous trek, including a heavy rainstorm, Norman almost drowned while crossing a raging river; Mitch attempted to rescue Norman by lassoing him, but was also carried downstream by the current and had to be rescued by his two heroic pals
  • once they arrived at a ranch in Colorado, Clay Stone responded with glee that his herd had been delivered: "I'm as happy as a puppy with two peters"; he announced how he would reward the tenderfoots with refunds for their experience ("Two weeks ago, you boys were as worthless as hen s--t on a pump handle. Look at you now! I'm givin' your money back!"), but then told how the herd was destined to be sold to a meat packing company for "top dollar": ("It's what these animals are bred for. All that meat under cellophane in the store, where do you think it comes from?"); his words caused the threesome to become dispirited and saddened
  • during their last day together in a moment of self-reflection, the three discussed their futures; Ed intended to impregnate his young wife and have children within a more committed relationship, while Phil told how he would "start over" after his upcoming divorce, in a new relationship with Bonnie; and Mitch declared that he had envisioned what Curly described as his "one thing"
  • in the film's final scene at the NYC airport, Mitch surprised his wife Barbara with a new addition to the family - he revealed his pet Norman from a cage by dragging him with reins, and then introduced him: "Everyone, this is Norman!" - Norman "mooed" at everyone; after placing Norman in the family van, Mitch announced plans to place the saved animal in a petting zoo

Mitch In Spanish Doctor's Office: "Don't sew anything up that's supposed to remain open"

Mitch's 'What is Life' Speech During "Career Day" at His Son's School

During Mitch's 39th Birthday Celebration, Phil was Told That He Had Impregnated 20 Year-Old Co-Worker Nancy - It Broke Up His Marriage

(l to r): At New Mexico Dude Ranch: Phil, Mitch, and Ed

Ben and Steve Jessup: "We're black and we're dentists"

Ice-Cream Entrepreneurs Barry and Ira Shalowitz

Curly Threatening His Two Drunk Ranchhands With a Bowie Knife

Mitch Marveling to Bonnie about Curly: "He was like a saddlebag with eyes!"

Mitch After Describing Curly as Crazy - Curly Was Standing Behind Him ("He's behind me, isn't he?")

Curly to Mitch: "I crap bigger than you"

Mitch's Coffee Grinder - Causing a Stampede That Destroyed the Camp

Curly to Mitch: "Do you know what the secret of life is?"

Curly: "One thing. Just one thing..."

The Birth of a Calf - and Mitch's Exclamation: "Look what I did. I made a cow!"

Sharing "Best" and "Worst" Day Memories During the Trail Ride

Phil With a Gun: "I hate bullies!"

Arguing About How a TV's DVR Works


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