At the Movies, On a Desert Island

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Old TV set


Darleen and I stumbled backward, who knows how or why, into one of those “what-if?” games. If memory serves, we were talking about how certain movies bear up under repeated viewing, just as there are certain books one thinks of as old friends, that one can go back to again and again, always certain of the same good company, the same warm welcome, the same comfortable patterns of emotion and delight: The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Irish RM, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby, all of W.W. Jacobs, much of P.G. Wodehouse, most of Dylan Thomas and much of Tennyson, practically anything by Dickens, everything by Shakespeare, all those books and poems and plays that act as comfort food for us when all other diversions pale and fail.

So one of us posited the question: if you were stranded on a desert island conveniently provided with a television and a DVD player and the electricity to run them, which ten movies would you take with you to help you through your isolation?

After radical culling, the kind of culling that shows off my iron will power, my cold and ruthless capacity for abnegation, my towering strength of character, my ability to endure any kind of hardship, I have compiled my short list. It is, in no particular order:

Dr. Zhivago

The English Patient

Bridge on the River Kwai

The Third Man

A Christmas Story

It’s a Wonderful Life

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The More the Merrier

Treasure of the Sierra Madre


To Kill a Mockingbird

Singing in the Rain

The Godfather, Parts I & II

Tom Jones

The Lion in Winter

Lawrence of Arabia

The Lady Eve

The Lavender Hill Mob

Mr. Roberts

Libeled Lady

I’m sorry. What did you say? That’s more than ten? Oh, for God’s sake. This isn’t a damned math class. People put far too much store in numbers and precision and all that nonsense. Life should be much more flexible than that.

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