Dick Cavett’s Top 10

Dick Cavett’s Top10

One of the United States’ most beloved talk-show hosts of all time, Dick Cavett has been a presence on television since his first interview program, This Morning, debuted in 1968. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times online and the author of the book Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks (2014).

Dec 18, 2014
  • 1

    The Third Man

    Carol Reed

    The most thoroughly satisfying and perhaps only perfect film ever made. I forget which director said they should close all the film schools and just show the students The Third Man thirty times. It bears at least a dozen reseeings, with something new and fine discovered each time. And to think that Benzedrine-riddled David O. Selznick tried to transform the fabulous final moments into a happy ending; but Carol Reed refused, standing up for all of us.

    This year I found and stood in the dark Vienna doorway where Orson Welles stood when the kitty licked his shoe . . . and had my picture taken. I can find but one tiny glitch: Harry Lime’s address. It’s spoken by Joseph Cotten as “fünfzehn Josefsplatz,” but, moments later, the building with the caryatids prominently bears the number fünf. Okay, so no movie’s perfect.

  • 2

    Notorious

    Alfred Hitchcock

    Hitchcock’s best film, for my money. But then any movie with the sinister Ivan Triesault gets my vote. He’s the one who takes Claude Rains in the final moments for his last ride, for us and for Claude. I wonder if, even in real life, the villainous Triesault could smile. The suspense in the wine cellar upsets my nerves every time.

  • 3

    Tokyo Story

    Yasujiro Ozu

    Tokyo monogatari, perhaps better known to non-Nipponophiles as Tokyo Story. Any film by the great Yasujiro Ozu will do, especially if it has Japan’s walked-away-in-mid-career huge star, the divine, mysterious, heart-seducing Setsuko Hara, who, Garbo-like and at the peak of her popularity, vanished into obscurity, never to return to the screen. I discovered her hideout in Kamakura, Japan, and briefly glimpsed her, refuting my cabdriver’s assurance that she was long dead. She lives yet, in her mid-nineties. Don’t pass this way without losing your heart to Miss Hara—Japan’s “eternal virgin”—on the screen. Also, same film, the great Chishu Ryu, who teaches the entire acting profession how to play, at a still youngish age, an ancient and enfeebled oldster. He is, one critic said, “old in his bones.”

  • 4

    Children of Paradise

    Marcel Carné

    The brilliant teacher I had for a Shakespeare seminar at Yale (Joel Dorius) asked us one day if we had an idea of what heaven, for us, would consist of. What you’d hope it would be. His own answer: “Just to sit in a screening room, watching Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise projected repeatedly and endlessly throughout eternity.” Hard to argue with that when you see and resee this classic. Dorius’s version of heaven beats hell out of harps and angels.

  • 5

    To Be or Not to Be

    Ernst Lubitsch

    Starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Beyond praise.

  • 6

    Sweet Smell of Success

    Alexander Mackendrick

    Love this film, partly and somewhat irrationally because it preserves in amber the Times Square part of Manhattan as it was when I first knew it, with glimpses of fondly remembered theaters, dance halls, pool halls, the Camel sign, etc., etc. Not the gaudy, blinding array of plastic junk that area is now. You can even see the late and fondly remembered Hotel Astor. Burt Lancaster has never thrilled me, but he’s awfully good in this, and the movie does thrill.

  • 7

    Kind Hearts and Coronets

    Robert Hamer

    Alec Guinness’s stunning versatility, playing a whole cast’s worth of characters, combined with his comic genius makes this a movie that should be enshrined. Funny how Guinness gets credit in many people’s faulty memories for Dennis Price’s high style performance. Can there be people who’ve never seen this treasure? Even once? How sad.

  • 8

    On the Waterfront

    Elia Kazan

    No words necessary.