Happy Birthday Billy Crystal: Celebrating the Legendary Actor’s Best Moments

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Billy Crystal, you make 73 look marvelous!

It’s the birthday of the comedian/actor/writer/television host. We’re sure that if he has the time, Billy Crystal will find a way to celebrate. But we can have a party ourselves looking back at all the special moments that made us laugh.

First, did you know that Billy Crystal was a TV trailblazer? His first role was playing Jodie Dallas on Soap. It was a primetime comedy that poked fun of soap operas. Jodie Dallas was one of the first openly gay characters on television.

It was a big deal in the 1970s. His boyfriend on the show was Bob Seagren, who played a pro football player. In real life, Seagren was an Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault.

By 1984, Billy Crystal joined the cast of Saturday Night Light. He created so many beloved characters. One such character was Buddy Young Jr., a Vegas lounge act. The character inspired the movie Mr. Saturday Night.

Then there were Crystal’s Fernando’s Hideaway segments, where he’d play Argentinian actor Fernando Lamas. Remember, darling, you look marvelous. And, it’s better to look good than to feel good. Billy Crystal said so.

Billy Crystal Played Quirky Leading Men

By the mid-1980s, Billy Crystal had moved full-time into acting in movies. He played “Miracle Max” in Princess Bride. Then came the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, which pushed Crystal into the leading man category.

Rob Reiner directed this 1989 hit written by Nora Ephron. Crystal, as Harry Burns, played opposite Meg Ryan, who was Sally Albright. The two showed that long-time best friends of the opposite sex can fall in love. Both Crystal and Ryan received Golden Globe acting nominations for their work in the movie.

The film featured one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. Check it out.

Billy Crystal’s next big movie was the buddy film City Slickers. This was in 1991. Crystal played Mitch Robbins, an account executive for a radio station. For his birthday, he received a spot in a two-week cattle drive between Colorado and New Mexico.

His friends went along and we got to see the so-called city slickers do the ranch experience. Jack Palance won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for playing crusty Curly Washburn. Meanwhile, Crystal picked up a Golden Globe nomination for best actor.

By 1999, Crystal starred in another hit, Analyze This. He played the psychotherapist for mobster Robert DeNiro. The movie sounded a lot like the HBO drama The Sopranos, which debuted two months earlier. But Analyze This was one of the top grossing movies of the year.

Crystal Charmed Us at Academy Awards

Crystal also was host to nine Academy Awards shows from 1990 to 2012. He was so good as host that he won three Emmys. Only Bob Hope, with 19, hosted more Oscar shows. He had a definitive schtick. In the opening moments of the show, Crystal inserted himself into scenes of that year’s Oscar nominees.

Here’s Billy Crystal discussing some of his best memories from hosting the Academy Awards.

Actor Earned a Tony For His Broadway Play

Billy Crystal wasn’t all about the Oscars or Emmys. He also managed to win a Tony Award in 2005. He wrote a two-act, one-man play for Broadway. It was called 700 Sundays, about Crystal’s childhood growing up in Long Island. He then turned the play into a book by the same name.

He brought the play back to Broadway in 2013. HBO filmed it and showed it on the network in 2014.

Billy Crystal always was best at impersonations. He even did one on boxing great Muhammad Ali. The two became unlikely friends. And Crystal gave one of the eulogies at Ali’s funeral in 2016.

Crystal also has done successful voice work. He charmed us as the voice of Mike Wazkowski in Monsters, Inc. He reprised his role in the prequel Monsters University.

So here’s to you, Billy Crystal. Here’s a toast to laughter and making us smile for many years to come.

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