The Third Man Theme
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (May 2011)|
|"The Third Man Theme"|
|Single by Anton Karas|
Karas was working as a zither player when director Carol Reed, during location scouting for the film, heard him playing in a beer garden. Reed wanted music that wasn't a waltz but would be appropriate to the city of Vienna, in which the film was set, so he asked Karas if he would write and record the film's score. Karas agreed, and he wrote the theme based on a melody in a practice book. The zither had not previously been widely used in English or American music, but the theme became popular with audiences of the film soon after its premiere.
The tune was originally released in the U.K. in 1949, where it was known as 'The "Harry Lime" Theme.' Following its release in the U.S. in 1950 (see 1950 in music), "The Third Man Theme" spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard's U.S. Best Sellers in Stores chart, from April 29 to July 8. Its success led to a trend in releasing film theme music as singles.
A guitar version by Guy Lombardo also sold strongly. Four other versions charted in the U.S. during 1950. According to Faber and Faber, the different versions of the theme have collectively sold an estimated forty million copies.
The full soundtrack album was ready for release when The Third Man came out, but there was not a lot of interest in it. Instead, labels focused on the catchy main theme and released it as a single.
- The zither-based Anton Karas version excerpted from the film soundtrack was released by Decca in 1949 across Europe with different catalog numbers. It was a 10-inch 78rpm single with "The Harry Lime theme" on the A side and "The Cafe Mozart Waltz" on the B side. This became the most common version heard by European listeners.
- Decca F.9235 (United Kingdom), Decca NF.9235 (Germany).
- Decca M.32760 (Netherlands).
- Decca 671 (Italy).
- The guitar-based version performed by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians was recorded December 9, 1949 and was released in the US by Decca under catalog number Decca 24839 (1950). It was a 78rpm 10-inch single that had "The 3rd Man theme" on the A side and "The Cafe Mozart Waltz" on the B side. This was the version most familiar to American listeners.
- The Norwegian-born pianist "Banjo-Lasse" recorded the tune in Stockholm on November 17, 1949 with Thorstein Sjögren's orchestra. It was released on the 78 rpm record HMV X 7567.
- Telefunken came out with a single of the Anton Karas version for the West German market [Telefunken A-10-856] in 1950. It was re-released as a 7-inch 45rpm format single [U-45-856] in 1957.
- In 1950 the London Records label (a sub-division of Decca UK) released the Anton Karas version in both a 10-inch 78rpm single [London 536] and a 7-inch 45rpm single [London 30005].
- The comedian Victor Borge covered the theme on piano for his 1955 album Caught in the Act.
- Russ Conway recorded a honky tonk piano version of the "The Harry Lime theme" with Geoff Love and his Orchestra for Columbia Records in 1958. It was released as a 7-inch 45rpm single [Columbia 45-DB 4060] with "The Lantern Slide" on the B-side.
- Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass recorded a Latin-flavored go-go version of the piece arranged for brass instruments on his album !!Going Places!! (1965) for A&M Records.
- For their BBC special, It's The Beatles, The Beatles mixed a piece of the tune into an unintentionally instrumental version of "From Me To You" after the microphones had failed and the song had devolved into a tongue-in-cheek vamp. Six years later, they recorded another impromptu version during a jam session in 1969, but neither version has ever appeared on any of their official albums.
- The Band played it on Moondog Matinee (1973) [Capitol 93592], an album of song covers, for Columbia Records.
- The Shadows recorded a version on their 33-1/3rpm double LP Hits Right Up Your Street (1981) for Polydor Records.
- An unidentified instrumentalist played the song in a scene in the movie xXx.
- Martin Carthy on his album, Waiting for Angels, Topic TSCD527
The music is also used in a bar scene in the 2002 Vin Diesel action film xXx. Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer's comedy troupe The Lonely Island used a sample of the theme song on the song "Stork Patrol". The theme also is used for the title sequence of Ebert Presents At the Movies.
"The Third Man Theme" was used in a 1982 TV mail-order record collection, Aerobic Dancing [Parade LP 100A], with Sharon Barbano.
"The Third Man Theme" is informally known in Japan as the "Ebisu Beer Theme," which is still used in Ebisu beer commercials to this day. For this reason, it is also used at Ebisu Station on the JR Yamanote line to inform passengers of incoming trains.
"If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked a Cake)" by Eileen Barton
|U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
April 29, 1950-July 8, 1950
"Mona Lisa" by Nat King Cole
"Music! Music! Music!"
|Cash Box magazine best selling record chart
April 22, 1950–July 1, 1950
- Song title 199 - Third Man Theme 
- "The Third Man Theme". ntl.matrix.com.br. Retrieved August 25, 2006.
- "Stork Patrol" (sample used), The Lonely Island, 23 December 2005
- "The Foreign Film Theme - "The Third Man Theme" 1949". Space Age Pop Music. Retrieved August 25, 2006.
- "The Third Man theme" discography. Space Age Pop Music. Retrieved November 21, 2011.