An out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins, arrives in a post war Vienna divided into sectors by the victorious allies, and where a shortage of supplies has led to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. From talking to Lime's friends and associates Martins soon notices that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime.Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Initially cautious about Karas' music, Selznick sent this telegram to his VP from London.
"November 25, 1949 TELEGRAM to Daniel T. O'Shea [Executive VicePresident, Selznick Productions] ...Cannot commence to tell you sensation caused by Karas's zither music in The Third Man. It is rage of England and has already sold more record copies than any other record in entire history of record business in England. It is widest-played dance music in England... Ads here use "Hear Harry Lime Theme," etc. in type dwarfing all other billing. It is one of those unpredictable, tremendous sensations that I cannot expect any of you to understand who have not been here. Entirely unrelated newspaper articles and editorials, even on politics, constantly refer to it. Inevitably, this success will be repeated America if we are prepared for it. We should be able to make fortune out of this music". Regards, David
By the time Selznick released the film in the U.S., in February 1950, the "Harry Lime Theme" was already a sensation. He capitalized on this by including the tag line "Featuring the Famous Zither Score by Anton Karas...He"ll have in you a dither with his zither!" in the ad campaign and trailers. See more »
About 18 minutes into the movie, when Martins is at the theatre, as he gets up to leave you can see a chandelier being lowered down into the shot. See more »
The UK version features introductory voice-over by the director Carol Reed; in the US version Joseph Cotten provides the voice-over, as his character Holly Martins. The UK version runs 104 minutes, versus the US version at 93 minutes, which was cut by producer David O. Selznick to give the film a tighter pace. Both versions have been released on video in the U.S., but as of today the most common is the longer British cut. A video comparison between the narrations appears on the U.S. Criterion Collection DVD. See more »
Even today in Vienna, one can take the "Third Man Tour" (Der Dritte Man) except, of course, that Orson Welles wouldn't go into the Viennese sewers and those scenes were done in England. There were actual sewer scenes with a double. Never mind, it is still a magnificent black and white film 99% filmed in Vienna. Directed by Carol Reed, it stars Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and Alida Valli.
Western novelist Holly Martins (Cotten) comes to Vienna at the behest of his old friend Harry Lime, but when he arrives, he learns that Lime is dead after being hit by a car. He investigates and finds the circumstances very strange indeed, especially when learning there was a third man that helped carry Harry's body to the sidewalk, a man who has since disappeared.
He then meets Harry's girlfriend (Alida Valli). And he also meets a police officer in the British section of Vienna, Inspector Calloway (Trevor Howard), who tells him that Harry was a murderer and a racketeer, and it's better that he's dead. Holly is shocked and demands proof.
One of the most atmospheric films ever made, with its zither music, cinematography, and Vienna at nighttime. Then there's some brilliant dialogue, particularly the "cuckoo clock" speech made by Orson Welles.
The cinematography is particularly striking: odd angles, back lighting, and shadows on empty streets. And who can forget the man hidden in the doorway, when the light from an apartment goes on and shows his face - certainly one of the great appearances of a star in a film.
One feels Lime's presence throughout the film, though he only has five minutes of screen time.
Though none of these actors were the first choice to play their roles, they are all excellent.
There was a Third Man TV series in 1959 that ran for six years and starred Michael Rennie as Lime. In the series, Lime is a hero.
He's no hero in the movie, but it is a powerful story and film, never forgotten once seen.
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