AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Third Man
Director: Carol Reed (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1950
Premiere Information:   London opening: 31 Aug 1949; New York opening: 2 Feb 1950
Production Date:   began Nov 1948
Duration (in mins):   93 or 104-105
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins)  
    Valli (Anna [Schmidt])  
    Orson Welles (Harry Lime)  
    Trevor Howard (Major Calloway)  
    Bernard Lee (Sergeant Paine)  
    Paul Hoerbiger (Harry's porter)  
    Ernst Deutsch ("Baron" Kurtz)  
    Sigfried Breuer (Popescu)  
    Erich Ponto (Dr. Winkel)  
    Wilfred Hyde-White (Crabbin)  
    Hedwig Bleibtreu (Anna's "old woman")  
    Annie Rosar (Porter's wife)  
    Herbert Halbik ("Little" Hansl)  
    Alexis Chesnakov (Brodsky)  
    Paul Hardtmuth (Hall porter, Sachers)  
    Frederick Schreicker (Hansl's father)  
    Jenny Werner (Winkel's maid)  
    Nelly Arno (Kurtz's mother)  
    Leo Bieber (Casanova, barman)  

Summary: In post-war Vienna, a city occupied by four Allied forces and sustained by a thriving black market, American writer Holly Martins arrives, penniless, at the invitation of his old friend Harry Lime, who had offered him a job. Holly goes to Harry's apartment and is told by the porter that Harry was run over by a car and killed. He rushes to the cemetery, where he finds Harry's funeral in progress. As he leaves the gravesite, Holly is approached by a British officer, Major Calloway, who offers him a ride and buys him a drink. When Calloway tells him that Harry was a notorious racketeer, Holly drunkenly vows to prove him wrong. Later, at his hotel, Holly is approached by Crabbin, the head of a cultural institute, who mistakes him for a prestigious novelist and offers to pay for his stay in Vienna if he will speak at one of their meetings. Holly soon receives a call from "Baron" Kurtz, who identifies himself as a friend of Harry and arranges to meet Holly at a café. Kurtz describes Harry's accident and mentions that Harry's Rumanian friend Popescu was also present when Harry died. Holly inquires about the beautiful woman he saw at the funeral, and Kurtz replies that she was Harry's girl friend, Anna Schmidt, an actress at the Josefstadt Theatre. Holly calls on Anna after a performance, and she tells him that Harry's personal physician, Dr. Winkel, happened to show up at the scene of the accident, and that the man behind the wheel of the car was actually Harry's driver. Anna expresses her suspicion that Harry's death was not accidental, and accompanies Holly to Harry's apartment to question the porter. Contrary to Kurtz's account, the porter says that Harry was killed at once, adding that an unidentified third man was present and helped carry the body. When Holly escorts Anna to her apartment, they find Calloway and members of the international police force searching her room. Calloway confiscates Anna's identification papers, claiming they were forged, takes her to the police station and questions her about Josef Harbin, an employee of a military hospital who recently disappeared. After Anna is released, she and Holly go to a nightclub, where they are joined by Kurtz and Popescu, and Holly relates what the porter told him about the third man. The next evening, Holly and Anna set out to talk to the porter again, but as they approach the building, the neighbors tell them that the porter has been murdered. When Holly returns to his hotel, he is promptly whisked away to Crabbin's cultural institute. The badly shaken Holly stumbles through his guest appearance at the literary salon, but when Popescu arrives with two men, he flees. Holly goes to see Calloway, who tells him about Vienna's black market for penicillin, explaining that racketeers often increase their profits by diluting the drug, which has disastrous medical effects. Calloway says that Harbin worked for Harry, stealing penicillin from laboratories, and shows Holly the evidence his men have collected implicating Harry and Kurtz. Holly is appalled by his friend's actions, and goes to Anna and tells her that he is returning to the United States, then admits his strong feelings for her. After leaving Anna's apartment, Holly notices a man standing in the shadows and dares him to reveal himself. When an irate neighbor opens a window, the light falls across the face of Harry Lime, who disappears before Holly can reach him. Holly summons Calloway, who retraces Harry's escape route and discovers an abandoned news kiosk leading underground to the main sewer. Calloway has Harry's coffin exhumed, and the body inside turns out to be Harbin's. Using Kurtz as an intermediary, Holly arranges a meeting with Harry at the amusement park ferris wheel. Harry smoothly dismisses Holly's moral outrage at the penicillin racket and warns his old friend to stop talking to the police. Undeterred, Harry offers to help the police capture Harry in exchange for safe passage out of Vienna for Anna, who is about to be arrested by the Russians. When Anna furiously rejects the deal, Holly wants to quit, but Calloway takes him to the children's hospital to see some of the brain-damaged young victims of Harry's racketeering. Heartsick over what he sees, Holly agrees to act as a decoy to capture Harry. After waiting for Harry for hours in a café, Holly is joined by Anna, who berates him for working for the police. When Harry arrives, Anna warns him, and he escapes into the sewer, with Holly and the police in pursuit. Harry shoots and kills a British soldier, Sgt. Paine, and Holly slips away and shoots Harry as he tries to crawl through a grate to the street above. After Harry's real funeral, Holly watches in despair as Anna silently walks away down a long, tree-lined avenue. 

Production Company: London Film Productions, Ltd.  
Distribution Company: Selznick Releasing Organization  
Director: Carol Reed (Dir)
  Guy Hamilton (Asst dir)
Producer: David O. Selznick (Pres)
  Alexander Korda (Pres)
  Carol Reed (Prod)
  Hugh Perceval (Assoc prod)
Writer: Graham Greene (Scr)
Photography: Robert Krasker (Photog)
  John Wilcox (Addl photog)
  Stan Pavey (Addl photog)
  Ted Scaife (Cam op)
  Denys Coop (Cam op)
Art Direction: Ferdinand Bellan (Asst art dir)
  James Sawyer (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter (Ed)
  Peter Taylor (Assembly cutter)
Set Decoration: Vincent Korda (Set des)
  Paul Roe Crawley (Settings des and executed by)
  Joseph Bato (Set des)
  Dario Simoni (Set dec)
Costumes: George Murrey (Ward master)
  Ivy Baker (Ward)
Music: Anton Karas (Zither mus played by)
Sound: John Cox (Sd supv)
  Bert Ross (Sd rec)
  Red Law (Sd rec)
  Jack Drake (Sd ed)
Make Up: George Frost (Makeup)
  Joe Shear (Hairdressing)
Production Misc: T. S. Lyndon-Haynes (Prod mgr)
  Peggy McClaferty (Cont)
  Elizabeth Montagu (Austrian adv)
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
London Film Productions, Ltd. 31/8/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2580

PCA NO: 14125
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Adventure
  Adventure
Sub-Genre: Suspense
  Postwar life
 
Subjects (Major): Americans in foreign countries
  English in foreign countries
  Hoaxes
  Profiteering
  Vienna (Austria)
 
Subjects (Minor): Actors and actresses
  Amusement parks
  Authors
  Black market
  Exhumation
  Ferris wheels
  Funerals
  Hospitals
  Lectures
  Mistaken identity
  Murder
  Penicillin
  Police
  Porters
  Russians
  Salons
  Sewers

Note: The American version of the film opens with a voice-over narration in which the character "Holly Martins" explains that post-war Vienna is divided into four zones: American, British, Russian and French. He adds that the center of the city is international and is policed by a security force comprising one member from each of the four powers. In the British version of the film, the opening voice-over is delivered by a British narrator, whom modern sources identify as producer-director Carol Reed.
       In Graham Greene's novella, which was published after the film's release, the three male protagonists were British. In his preface to the novella, Greene maintains that the story was never intended for publication, but was written expressly as a blueprint for the screenplay. "To me it is almost impossible to write a film without first writing a story," he wrote. "One must have the sense of more material than one needs to draw on." Greene adds that Welles wrote the well-known line about Switzerland's sole contribution to world culture being the cuckoo clock. Some modern sources also credit Welles with the famous shot in which "Harry Lime" is suddenly revealed in a shaft of light, but this scene is as it appears in the novella.
       According to modern scholars, Greene based the character of Lime on British double agent Kim Philby, who was Greene's superior in Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. Greene's biographers suggest that his suspicion of Philby was the reason for Greene's abrupt resignation from the service in 1944.
       Cary Grant was originally cast as Holly, and modern sources report that Noël Coward was sought to portray Lime. When these two characters were rewritten as Americans, co-producer David O. Selznick expressed interest in Robert Mitchum, whose popularity had soared in the wake of his arrest for possession of marijuana, for the role of Lime. In a memo reprinted in a modern source, Selznick wrote that Mitchum would guarantee strong box office returns, as opposed to Orson Welles, "who in my opinion would not add a dollar to gross." Mitchum was sentenced to jail, however, and Welles, desperate for money to fund his production of Othello , finally agreed to play what has become one of the most memorable roles of his career. Modern sources add that James Stewart was also considered for the role of Holly.
       The Third Man was filmed on location in Vienna, Austria. A 24 Aug 1948 news item in Var notes that Reed was granted permission to film by all four of the country's occupying powers. The British version of the film is approximately eleven minutes longer than the American version, which was re-edited by Selznick. In a memo to the press contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Selznick Releasing Organization asked reviewers to "refrain from divulging the climax of the film story, i.e., that Harry Lime is alive." Most critics revealed this plot point anyway. According to a 20 Sep 1950 news item in Var , twenty-five thousand East Germans attended a screening of the film in an open-air cinema in West Berlin, in defiance of East Germany's Communist government.
       The Third Man won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Black and White), and was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Editing. The film was named Best Film at the 1949 Cannes Film Festitval. The Third Man also won considerable praise for Anton Karas' score, which is played on a zither throughout the film. According to an article in Newsweek , a recording of Karas' music from the film was a best-seller in England.
       A radio adaptation of the film was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on 9 Apr 1951, with Joseph Cotten, Ted de Corsia, Ben Wright and Evelyn Keyes, and on 8 Feb 1954, with Ray Milland, Ruth Roman, de Corsia and Wright. In 1952, the BBC produced a syndicated radio program, The Third Man , which was also called The Lives of Harry Lime and Harry Lime Adventures . Orson Welles supplied the voice of Lime in the series, which also featured Karas' "The Third Man Theme." In 1959, BBC-TV and Twentieth Century-Fox co-produced a syndicated television series, The Third Man , which was filmed both in England and Hollywood. The series, which Var called "the first of the truly Anglo-American co-production undertakings," starred Michael Rennie as Lime--who was changed from a ruthless black marketeer to a dashing soldier-of-fortune--and co-starred Jonathan Harris. The television series ran in the United States from 1960-61. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   11 Feb 1950.   
Daily Variety   27 Oct 48   p. 7.
Daily Variety   31 Jan 1950.   
The Exhibitor   15 Feb 50   p. 2797.
Film Daily   1 Feb 50   p. 7.
Harrison's Reports   4 Feb 50   p. 19.
Hollywood Citizen-News   13 Apr 50   p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 50   p. 3, 6
Los Angeles Times   13 Apr 1950.   
The Times (London)   15 Dec 1996.   
Motion Picture Daily   31 Jan 1950.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   4 Feb 50   p. 177.
New York Times   23 May 1948.   
New York Times   3 Feb 50   p. 29.
New Yorker   18 Mar 1950.   
Newsweek   16 Jan 1950.   
Variety   24 Aug 1948.   
Variety   7 Sep 49   p. 11.
Variety   22 Mar 1950.   
Variety   20 Sep 1950.   
Variety   14 Oct 1959.   

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