The Third Man
|The Third Man|
Cinema release poster
|Directed by||Carol Reed|
|Produced by||Carol Reed
David O. Selznick
|Written by||Graham Greene|
|Music by||Anton Karas|
|Editing by||Oswald Hafenrichter|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films
20th Century Fox
|Running time||104 minutes|
|Box office||£277,549 (UK)|
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. It is particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and musical score, and it is considered one of the greatest films of all time. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, who subsequently published the novella of the same name (which he had originally written as a preparation for the screenplay). Anton Karas wrote and performed the score, which used only the zither; its title music "The Third Man Theme" also topped the international music charts in 1950, bringing the hitherto unknown performer international fame.
American pulp Western writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives in Allied-occupied Vienna seeking his childhood friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), who has offered him a job, to be told that Lime was killed by a car while crossing the street just days before. At Lime's funeral, Martins meets two British Army Police: Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee), a fan of Martins' pulp fiction, and his superior, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard). Afterward, Martins is asked to give a lecture to a book club a few days later. He encounters a friend of Lime's, "Baron" Kurtz (Ernst Deutsch), who tells Martins that he and another friend of Lime, Popescu (Siegfried Breuer), carried Lime to the side of the street after the accident and, before he died, Lime asked them to take care of Martins and Lime's actress girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli).
Martins goes to see Anna but becomes suspicious that the facts 'don't add up' and that Lime's death was not an accident. The porter at Lime's apartment building says that Lime was killed immediately, and could not have given instructions before dying, and that three men carried the body, not two. The police, searching Anna's flat for evidence, find and confiscate her forged passport and detain her.
Martins visits Lime's "medical adviser", Dr. Winkel (Erich Ponto), who says that he arrived at the accident after Lime was dead, and only two men were present. The porter secretly offers Martins more information, but he is murdered before their arranged meeting. When Martins arrives, the crowd believe this stranger is involved and become hostile. Escaping from them, Martins returns to the hotel, and a cab immediately takes him away; he fears to his death but discovers it is only to the book club. From the audience, Popescu asks him about his next book, and Martins retorts that it will be called The Third Man, "a murder story" inspired by facts. Popescu tells Martins that he should stick to fiction. Martins sees two thugs advancing towards him and flees.
Calloway again advises Martins to leave Vienna, but Martins refuses and demands that Lime's death be investigated. Calloway reluctantly reveals that Lime was a black marketer, his racket was stealing penicillin from military hospitals- in postwar Vienna such antibiotics were new and scarce outside military hospitals, and commanded a very high price - greatly diluting it, and selling it on the black market, leading to many deaths of adults and children. Martins is convinced by the evidence, and agrees to leave.
Martins learns that Anna is about to be sent back to the Soviet sector of Vienna. Upon leaving her apartment, he notices someone watching from a dark doorway; a neighbour's lit window briefly reveals the person to be Lime, who flees, ignoring Martins' calls, and vanishes. Martins summons Calloway, who deduces that Lime has escaped through the sewers. The British police exhume Lime's coffin and discover that the body is that of Joseph Harbin, an orderly who stole penicillin for Lime.
The next day, Martins meets with Lime, and they ride Vienna's Ferris wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad. Lime obliquely threatens Martins, and in a monologue on the insignificance of his victims, reveals the full extent of his ruthlessness. He reiterates his job offer to Martins before leaving. Calloway asks Martins to help entice Lime out of hiding to be captured, and Martins agrees, asking for Anna's safe conduct out of Vienna in exchange. However Anna refuses to leave and remains loyal to Lime. Exasperated, Martins decides to leave, but his mind is changed when Calloway asks the driver to stop at a hospital and shows Martins child victims of Lime's diluted penicillin, who are dying of meningitis.
Lime arrives at his rendezvous with Martins, but Anna warns him of the trap. He tries once again to escape using the sewer tunnels, but the police are there in force. Lime shoots and kills Paine, but Calloway shoots and wounds Lime. Badly injured, Lime drags himself up a ladder to a street grating exit, but is unable to lift it. Martins picks up Paine's revolver and follows Lime. He reaches Lime but hesitates. Lime looks at him and nods his head. A shot is heard. Later, Martins attends Lime's second funeral. At the risk of missing his flight out of Vienna, he waits to speak to Anna, but ignoring him, she walks past.
The atmospheric use of black-and-white expressionist cinematography by Robert Krasker, with harsh lighting and distorted "Dutch angle" camera angles, is a key feature of The Third Man. Combined with the unique theme music, seedy locations, and acclaimed performances from the cast, the style evokes the atmosphere of an exhausted, cynical, post-war Vienna at the start of the Cold War. The film's unusual camera angles, however, were not appreciated by all critics at the time. C. A. Lejeune in The Observer described Reed's "habit of printing his scenes askew, with floors sloping at a diagonal and close-ups deliriously tilted" as "most distracting". American director William Wyler, a close friend of Reed's, sent Reed a spirit level, with a note saying, "Carol, next time you make a picture, just put it on top of the camera, will you?"
Before writing the screenplay, Graham Greene worked out the atmosphere, characterisation, and mood of the story by writing a novella. This was written purely to be used as a source text for the screenplay and was never intended to be read by the general public, although it was later published, together with The Fallen Idol.
The narrator in the novella is Major Calloway, which gives the book a slightly different emphasis from that of the screenplay. A small portion of his narration is retained in a modified form at the very beginning of the film; the part in which Reed's voice-over declaims: "I never knew the old Vienna ..."
Other differences include the nationality of both Holly and Harry; they are English in the book. Martins' first name is Rollo rather than Holly. Popescu's character is an American called Cooler. Crabbin was a single character in the novella. In the original draft of the screenplay, he was to be replaced by two characters, played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, but ultimately in the film, as in the novella, Crabbin is a single character.
There is also a difference of ending. In the novella, it is implied that Anna and Rollo (Holly) are about to begin a new life together, in stark contrast to the unmistakable snub by Anna that marks the end of the film. Anna does walk away from Harry's grave in the book, but the text continues:
I watched him striding off on his overgrown legs after the girl. He caught her up and they walked side by side. I don't think he said a word to her: it was like the end of a story except that before they turned out of my sight her hand was through his arm — which is how a story usually begins. He was a very bad shot and a very bad judge of character, but he had a way with Westerns (a trick of tension) and with girls (I wouldn't know what).
During the shooting of the film, the final scene was the subject of a dispute between Greene, who wanted the happy ending of the novella, and Reed and David O. Selznick, who stubbornly refused to end the film on what they felt was an artificially happy note. Greene later wrote: "One of the very few major disputes between Carol Reed and myself concerned the ending, and he has been proved triumphantly right."
Through the years there was occasional speculation that Welles, rather than Reed, was the de facto director of The Third Man. In film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum's 2007 book Discovering Orson Welles, Rosenbaum calls it a "popular misconception", although Rosenbaum did note that the film "began to echo the Wellesian theme of betrayed male friendship and certain related ideas from Citizen Kane." In the final analysis, Rosenbaum writes, "[Welles] didn't direct anything in the picture; the basics of his shooting and editing style, its music and meaning, are plainly absent. Yet old myths die hard, and some viewers persist in believing otherwise." Welles himself fuelled this theory with an interview he gave in 1958, in which he said that he had had an important role in making The Third Man, but that it was a "delicate matter, because [he] wasn't the producer". However, in a 1967 interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Welles said that his involvement was minimal: "It was Carol's picture". However, Welles did contribute some of the film's best-known dialogue. Bogdanovich also stated in the introduction to the DVD:
However, I think it's important to note that the look of The Third Man— and, in fact, the whole film—would be unthinkable without Citizen Kane, The Stranger, and The Lady from Shanghai, all of which Orson made in the '40s, and all of which preceded The Third Man. Carol Reed, I think, was definitely influenced by Orson Welles, the director, from the films he had made.
Six weeks of principal photography was shot on location in Vienna, ending on 11 December 1948. Production then moved to the Worton Hall Studios in Isleworth and Shepperton studios near London, and was completed in March 1949.
The scenes of Harry Lime in the sewer were shot on location or on sets built at Shepperton, with most of the location shots using doubles for Welles. However, Reed claimed that, despite initial reluctance, Welles quickly became enthusiastic, and stayed in Vienna to finish the film. Water was sprayed on the cobbled streets to make them reflect the light at night.
The "Swiss cuckoo clock" speech
In a famous scene, Lime meets with Martins on the Wiener Riesenrad, the large Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park. Looking down on the people below from his vantage point, Lime compares them to dots, and says that it would be insignificant if one of them or a few of them "stopped moving, forever". Back on the ground, he notes:
- You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
This remark was added by Welles – in the published script, it is in a footnote. Greene wrote in a letter "What happened was that during the shooting of The Third Man it was found necessary for the timing to insert another sentence." Welles apparently said the lines came from "an old Hungarian play"; the painter Whistler, in a lecture on art from 1885 (published in Mr Whistler's 'Ten O'Clock' ), had said, "The Swiss in their mountains ... What more worthy people! ... yet, the perverse and scornful [goddess, Art] will have none of it, and the sons of patriots are left with the clock that turns the mill, and the sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box! For this was Tell a hero! For this did Gessler die!" In This is Orson Welles (1993), Welles is quoted as saying "When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they've never made any cuckoo clocks", as the clocks are in fact German, native to the Black Forest. Writer John McPhee also points out that during the period of time the Borgia flourished in Italy, Switzerland was "the most powerful and feared military force in Europe", and not the peacefully neutral country that it is currently.
Differences between releases
As the original British release begins, the voice of director Carol Reed (uncredited) is heard describing post-war Vienna from the point of view of a racketeer. The version shown in American cinemas replaced this with narration by Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins. This change was instituted by David O. Selznick, who did not think American audiences would relate to the seedy tone of the original. In addition, eleven minutes of footage were cut. Today, Reed's original version appears on American DVDs, in showings on Turner Classic Movies, and in US cinema releases, with the eleven minutes of footage restored. Both the Criterion Collection and Studio Canal DVD releases include a comparison of the two opening monologues.
In the United Kingdom, The Third Man was the most popular movie at the British box office for 1949. In Austria, "local critics were underwhelmed" and the film ran for only a few weeks. Still, the Viennese Arbeiter-Zeitung, although critical of a "not-too-logical plot", praised the film's "masterful" depiction of a "time out of joint" and the city's atmosphere of "insecurity, poverty and post-war immorality". William Cook, after his 2006 visit to an eight-room museum in Vienna dedicated to the film, wrote "In Britain it's a thriller about friendship and betrayal. In Vienna it's a tragedy about Austria's troubled relationship with its past."
Upon its release in Britain and America, the film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Time magazine said that the film was "crammed with cinematic plums that would do the early Hitchcock proud—ingenious twists and turns of plot, subtle detail, full-bodied bit characters, atmospheric backgrounds that become an intrinsic part of the story, a deft commingling of the sinister with the ludicrous, the casual with the bizarre." Bosley Crowther, after a prefatory qualification that the film was "designed [only] to excite and entertain", wrote that Reed "brilliantly packaged the whole bag of his cinematic tricks, his whole range of inventive genius for making the camera expound. His eminent gifts for compressing a wealth of suggestion in single shots, for building up agonized tension and popping surprises are fully exercised. His devilishly mischievous humor also runs lightly through the film, touching the darker depressions with little glints of the gay or macabre." One of the very rare exceptions was the British communist paper Daily Worker (now known as the Morning Star), which complained that "no effort is spared to make the Soviet authorities as sinister and unsympathetic as possible."
Critics today have hailed the film as a masterpiece. Roger Ebert added the film to his "Great Movies" list and wrote, "Of all the movies that I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies." Gene Siskel remarked that it was an "exemplary piece of moviemaking, highlighting the ruins of WWII and juxtaposing it with the characters' own damaged histories". James Berardinelli has also praised the film, calling the film a "must-see" for lovers of film noir.
The musical score was composed by Anton Karas and played by him on the zither. Before the production came to Vienna, Karas was an unknown wine bar performer. According to a November 1949 Time magazine article:
- The picture demanded music appropriate to post-World War II Vienna, but director Reed had made up his mind to avoid schmalzy, heavily orchestrated waltzes. In Vienna one night Reed listened to a wine-garden zitherist named Anton Karas, [and] was fascinated by the jangling melancholy of his music.
Reed later brought Karas to London, where the musician spent six weeks working with Reed on the score. Decades later, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's The Third Man?"
"The Third Man Theme" was released as a single in 1949/50 (Decca in the UK, London Records in the US). It became a best-seller; by November 1949, 300,000 records had been sold in Britain, with the teen-aged Princess Margaret a reported fan. Following its release in the US in 1950 (see 1950 in music), "The Third Man Theme" spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard's US Best Sellers in Stores chart, from 29 April to 8 July. The exposure made Karas an international star, and the trailer for the film stated that "the famous musical score by Anton Karas" would have the audience "in a dither with his zither".
Awards and honours
The Third Man won the 1949 Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, the British Academy Award for Best Film, and an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography in 1950.
In 1999, the British Film Institute selected The Third Man as the best British film of the 20th century. Five years later, the magazine Total Film ranked it fourth. In 2005, viewers of BBC Television's Newsnight Review voted the film their fourth favourite of all time; it was the only film in the top five made prior to 1970.
The film also placed 57th on the American Film Institute's list of top American films in 1998, though the film's only American connections were its executive co-producer David O. Selznick and its actors Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten. The other two executive co-producers, Sir Alexander Korda and Carol Reed, were of Hungarian and British origin respectively. In June 2008, the American Film Institute (AFI) revealed its 10 Top 10—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. The Third Man was acknowledged as the fifth best film in the mystery genre. AFI chose the film in the following categories:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – No. 57
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 75
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Harry Lime – No. 37 Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- 10 Top 10 – No. 5 mystery film
In Vienna there is a "Third Man Museum" dedicated to the film.
This film lapsed into public domain in the United States when the copyright was not renewed after David Selznick's death. In 1996, the film's US copyright protection was restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act and credited to StudioCanal Image UK Ltd. The Criterion Collection released a digitally restored DVD of the original British print of the film. In 2008, Criterion released a Blu-ray edition, now out of print, and in September 2010, Lions Gate reissued the film on Blu-ray.
Under current US copyright law, The Third Man remains under copyright until 1 January 2045.
Joseph Cotton reprised his role as Holly Martins in the one-hour Theater Guild on the Air radio adaptation of The Third Man on 7 January 1951. The Third Man was also adapted as a one-hour radio play on two broadcasts of Lux Radio Theater, first on 9 April 1951 with Joseph Cotten reprising his role, then on 8 February 1954 with Ray Milland taking over as Holly.
A British radio drama series, The Adventures of Harry Lime (broadcast in the US as The Lives of Harry Lime), was created as a "prequel" to the film. It is centred on Lime's adventures prior to his "death in Vienna", and Welles reprises his role as Lime. Fifty-two episodes were aired in 1951 and 1952, several of which Welles wrote, including "Ticket to Tangiers", which is included on the Criterion Collection and Studio Canal releases of The Third Man. In addition, recordings of the 1952 episodes "Man of Mystery", "Murder on the Riviera", and "Blackmail is a Nasty Word" are included on the Criterion Collection DVD The Complete Mr. Arkadin.
A television spin-off ran for five seasons, beginning in 1959. Michael Rennie portrayed Harry Lime for this series. Seventy-seven episodes were filmed and the directors included Paul Henreid (10 episodes) and Arthur Hiller (6 episodes). Jonathan Harris played sidekick Bradford Webster for 72 episodes, and Roger Moore guest starred in the instalment entitled "The Angry Young Man", which was directed by Hiller.
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p489
- Halliwell, Leslie and John Walker, ed. (1994). Halliwell's Film Guide. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-273241-2. p 1192.
- Interview with Carol Reed from the book Encountering Directors by Charles Thomas Samuels (1972) from wellesnet.com
- Greene, Graham and Henry J. Donaghy (1992). Conversations With Graham Greene. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 0-87805-549-5. p 76.
- "'The Third Man' as a Story and a Film". Nytimes.com. 19 March 1950. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan, Discovering Orson Welles, University of California Press; 1 edition (2 May 2007), p.25 ISBN 0-520-25123-7
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Welles in the Limelight JonathanRosenbaum.net n.p. 30 July 1999. Web. 18 October 2010.
- Welles, Orson, Mark W. Estrin. Orson Welles: Interviews. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2002. Print.
- Bogdanovich, Peter, This is Orson Welles, Da Capo Press (21 March 1998) p.220, ISBN 978-0-306-80834-0
- Janus Films. The Janus Films Director Introduction Series presents Peter Bogdanovich on Carol Reed's The Third Man.
- I half expected to see Welles run towards me, a 7 April 2009 article from The Spectator
- Worton Hall Studios from a British Film Institute website
- Charles Drazin (21 May 2007). "Behind The Third Man". Carol Reed's The Third Man. Criterion Collection. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
- "Shadowing the Third Man". documentary. BBC Four. December 2007.
- Noble, Peter. The Fabulous Orson Welles. Hutchison, 1956.
- Feehan, Deirdre. "Senses of Cinema – Carol Reed". Sensesofcinema.com. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- 13 October 1977
- Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations, Sterling, 2006, pp. 485–86.
- McPhee, John. La Place de la Concorde Suisse. New York, Noonday Press (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 1984. McPhee is quoting "The Swiss at War" by Douglas Miller.
- Drazin, Charles: "In Search of the Third Man", page 36. Limelight Editions, 1999
- The Third Man at the Internet Movie Database
- "TOPS AT HOME.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 31 December 1949. p. 4. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- Cook, William (8 December 2006). "The Third Man's view of Vienna". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
- "Kunst und Kultur. (…) Filme der Woche. Der dritte Mann". Arbeiter-Zeitung (Vienna). 12 March 1950. p. 7. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- "The Third Man was a huge box-office success both in Europe and America, a success that reflected great critical acclamation ... The legendary French critic André Bazin was echoing widespread views when, in October 1949, he wrote of The Third Man's director: "Carol Reed ... definitively proves himself to be the most brilliant of English directors and one of the foremost in the world." The positive critical reaction extended to all parts of the press, from popular daily newspapers to specialist film magazines, from niche consumer publications to the broadsheet establishment papers ... Dissenting voices were very rare, but there were some. White, Rob. "The Third Man – Critical Reception". Screenonline.org.
- The New Pictures, 6 February 1950 from Time magazine
- Crowther, Bosley (3 February 1950). "The Screen in Review: The Third Man, Carol Reed's Mystery-Thriller-Romance, Opens Run of Victoria". NYT Critics Pick. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
- Quoted in the British Film Institute's Screenonline White, Bob. "The Third Man – Critical Reception". Screenonline.org.
- Ebert, Roger (8 December 1996). "The Third Man (1949)". Chicago Sun Times.
- Quoted in "Round Town with Herb Rau: In A Dither Over The Zither", The Miami News 20 January 1950 
- Music: Zither Dither, a 28 November 1949 article from Time magazine
- The Third Man review, Roger Ebert, 8 December 1996
- "Song title 199 – Third Man Theme". Tsort.info. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "The Third Man" DVD review, Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies.
- The Ultimate Trailer Show. HDNet, 22 September 2010.
- The Third Man Trailer. YouTube. 17 February 2010.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Third Man". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 17 June 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
- "Third Man Museum :: Dritte Mann Museum :: Vienna :: Wien". 3mpc.net. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Copyright.cornell.edu. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
- "The Third Man (1949) – The Criterion Collection". Criterion.com. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
- "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Copyright.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- The Great British Films, pp 134–136, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
- Drazin, Charles (2000). In Search of the Third Man. New York: Limelight Editions. ISBN 978-0-87910-294-4.
- Moss, Robert (1987). The Films of Carol Reed. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-05984-8.
- Timmermann, Brigitte (2005). The Third Man's Vienna. Austria: Shippen Rock Publishing. ISBN 3-9502050-1-2.
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