The Third Man (1949)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 46 mins

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After the Second World War, unemployed pulp fiction writer Holly Martins arrives in Vienna to meet with his old friend from school, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job. Upon arrival, he learns that Harry has just died, hit by a truck in front of his building, and he goes to his funeral. At the ceremony, Holly Martins sees a beautiful woman, Anna Schmidt, and a friend of Harry and sooner he learns that Anna was Harry's lover. Maj. Calloway, who is commanding the investigation, offers the ticket to Holly return home, but while waiting for the trip, he talks to two friends of Harry that say that they had been the first people at the scene to help his friend. However, the porter of Harry's building reports that there was a mysterious third man that helped Harry and Holly. Martins becomes intrigued with the inconsistency and decides to investigate further. His incisive investigations reveal that Harry Lime was the leader of a gang that robbed penicillin from the military hospital to adulterate and resell it, and has caused the death and anomalies in many children. Can he succeed in unravelling who the third man is? How will the future unfold for Martins and Anna?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Alida Valli, Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles

Crew: Carol Reed (Director), Robert Krasker (Director of Photography), Anton Karas (Music Director)

Rating: U (India)

Genres: Mystery, Thriller

Release Dates: 31 Aug 1949 (India)

Tagline: HUNTED...By a thousand men! Haunted...By a lovely girl!

English Name: The Third Man

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Did you know? When the film was initially distributed in America, David O. Selznick replaced the narration at the beginning (a necessity to explain the very unusual status of Vienna in the aftermath of World War II, when the film was set), originally done by Carol Reed himself, with a narration read by Joseph Cotten, in character as Holly Martins. Nearly eleven minutes of film was cut out in Selznick's version, including all references in the original cut to Cotten's Holly Martins being an implied alcoholic and anything else that portrayed him as a less than heroic figure. Read More
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as Anna Schmidt
as Holly Martins
as Harry Lime
as Porter's Wife
as Waiter
as Dr Winkel
as "Baron" Kurtz
as British Military Policeman
as Anna's landlady
as Sergeant Paine
as Karl
as British Military Policeman
as Popescu
as Major Calloway
as Crabbin

Direction

Director

Production

Producer

Writers

Screenplay Writer
Story Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography

Music

Music Director

Editorial

Film Type:
Feature Film
Language:
English
Colour Info:
Black & White
Sound Mix:
Mono
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1, 1.37 : 1
Stereoscopy:
No
Taglines:
HUNTED...By a thousand men! Haunted...By a lovely girl!
Hunted by men...Sought by WOMEN!
Goofs:
Revealing Mistakes
As Martins arrives at the funeral, he asks Maj. Calloway who the funeral is for. A black tombstone is seen behind Martins. When he walks towards the grave and stands by Anna, the same tombstone is seen behind her. This occurred because both of those scenes were not filmed on location in Vienna, but later at Shepperton Studios, which only had very few fake tombstones available.

Revealing Mistakes
In the two separate back projection shots of Calloway, Martens and Paine, supposedly traveling in a jeep at night in Vienna, a double-decker London bus can be seen in background.

Continuity
The policemen who come to arrest Anna change between shots. In dialogue scenes the British policeman is played by Geoffrey Keen. In shots of the Jeep driving to the apartment, and in long shots, a different actor is used.

Continuity
After Harry's funeral, in the Zentralfriedhof, Anna goes into the straight alley. We see her shadow on the right side on the screen.

Continuity
The position of Anna's neck ribbon when she and Holly first talk.

Continuity
The dog and the book briefly change between Kurtz' two hands when he is being shown where Lime was hit by a truck.

Continuity
When Calloway and the police stand waiting for Harry to arrive at the station, an elderly balloon man tries to sell them a balloon. His balloons have designs printed on them. Calloway has his sergeant buy one to get rid of the old man but the balloon has no printing on it, as the shot of the police was filmed later in London.

Continuity
In the sewer before putting fingers through grate, Harry Lime holds the stair's supporting pole with his right hand, but the gun should be in his hand, as displayed before and after this shot.

Continuity
Harry Lime's sewer scenes were shot in two locations--at a studio in the UK and on location underground in the Vienna sewer system. In the Vienna sewer location scenes you can see Harry's breath (it was cold down there); in the sewer scenes shot in the UK studio you can't.

Continuity
Three cats were used for Harry Lime's only loved cat. But all three cats had different sizes and colors.

Character Error
The line about the cuckoo clock being Switzerland's only contribution to culture is factually incorrect: the cuckoo clock comes from the Black Forest, across the border in southwestern Germany.

Audio/Video Mismatch
After Calloway has shown Martins the evidence against Lime, Calloway picks up the phone. We hear his line, "Get me police headquarters," but we don't see his lips move.
Trivia:
Graham Greene based the character of Harry Lime on British double agent Kim Philby, who was Greene's superior in the British Secret Intelligence Service.

The climax of this movie was the subject of contention during production. Surprisingly, Graham Greene, known for his bleak, depressing stories, wanted the film to have a "happy ending", with Holly Martins embracing Anna Schmidt after Lime's funeral; whereas David O. Selznick, known for his love of "Hollywood endings", advocated that Anna should ignore Holly after the funeral. Carol Reed agreed with Selznick and the sad ending was used. Reed, however, felt insecure about the length of the nearly 2-minute shoot he filmed where Martins waits for Anna and she walks by him without acknowledging his presence.

The scene showing the waning moments of Harry Lime's life in which he extends his fingers futilely towards freedom through a grate in the sewer was suggested to the director by Orson Welles. The hands actually used in that shot belong to director Carol Reed.

'Bernard Lee (I) (Sgt. Paine) played James Bond's superior M in the first eleven Bond films from Dr. No (1962) to Moonraker (1979)_ while Robert Brown (British Military Policeman in Sewer Chase) succeeded him in the role in Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989).

"Theater Guild on the Air" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on January 7, 1951 with Joseph Cotten reprising his film role.

This film is the debut of Robert Brown.

Joseph Cotten re-created his role in the Lux Radio production of "The Third Man" with Evelyn Keyes playing Alida Valli's role. Orson Welles was not in this radio play.

The future director John Glen was working in the editing department at Shepperton Studios when the film started production. He had a similar build to Joseph Cotten and was enlisted to supply the sound of his footsteps in post-production sound dubbing. He watched a continuous loop in the Westrex theatre and memorized the exact speed of Cotten's pace before dashing outside to a stairwell with a hard surface where the sound of his walking was recorded.

This film tops the "BFI 100", a list of 100 of "the best British films ever" compiled by the British Film Institute (in 1999/2000). Paradoxically, it is also included (at #57) on the American Film Institute's Top 100 American films" list compiled in 1996.

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.

The original script included a return appearance by Charters and Caldicott, the two English cricket enthusiasts who first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), and later in Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich (1940). However, the two characters were streamlined into the role of Mr. Crabbin, played by Wilfrid Hyde-White.

In one shot in the Wienkanal, a security officer passes by a wall with the engraving "O5," which was the secret symbol of the Austrian resistance against Nazi occupation. ("O5" represents "OE" or "Ö," the first letter of "Österreich," the native name for Austria).

Bernard Lee was second choice for Sgt. Paine. The actor who was first choice was not hired because of billing issues.

Director Carol Reed originally wanted James Stewart for the role of Holly Martins; producer David O. Selznick insisted on Joseph Cotten, who was under contract to Selznick's production company at that time.

The tunnels featured in this film are part of the Wienkanal, which channels the Wien River through central Vienna out to the Danube River. The main tunnel is the huge arched structure through which the river flows a distance of about 1.6km. The gated side passages are connections to a wet weather sewer overflow, and the chamber with the balconies is the overflow point. The spiral staircase is one of 6 exits from the main culvert. Tours are run through the system on a daily basis. Events are occasionally held down the tunnels in commemoration of the film and its characters.

Harry Lime's character name may be derived from Graham Greene's own name. Henry=Harry Graham Greene (Green)= Lime. Others say he chose the surname because it "reminded him of the quicklime where murderers were buried."

David O. Selznick insisted the filmmakers use Alida Valli for the female lead. Actually, Carol Reed and Alexander Korda were happy with the choice. Selznick became dissatisfied that Reed had Valli wear more plain clothes, wanting her to look glamorous and beautiful throughout. Reed won out on this aspect, due to the support of Korda.

This was meant to be the first of a series of collaborations between mega-producers David O. Selznick and Alexander Korda. However, as the production grew difficult, they decided to take it one film at a time. Ironically, due to the success of the film, since both producers were at each other's throats for the credit for the film, they never collaborated again.

Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008.

When the film was initially distributed in America, David O. Selznick replaced the narration at the beginning (a necessity to explain the very unusual status of Vienna in the aftermath of World War II, when the film was set), originally done by Carol Reed himself, with a narration read by Joseph Cotten, in character as Holly Martins. Nearly eleven minutes of film was cut out in Selznick's version, including all references in the original cut to Cotten's Holly Martins being an implied alcoholic and anything else that portrayed him as a less than heroic figure.

David O. Selznick was resistant to Carol Reed's idea of casting Orson Welles as Harry Lime, since Selznick had labeled Welles as "box office poison".

Carol Reed had three separate film units working most days of production: a daytime unit, a nighttime unit and a sewer unit. Reed insisted upon directing each unit, resulting in him working 20 hour days.

Orson Welles starred in a radio series ("The Lives of Harry Lime," 1951-52) based on the early adventures of his character in this film.

Cary Grant was considered for the part of Harry Lime. Conicidentally, Grant was a regular lunchtime visitor to the set of the film when the shooting returned to London sound-stages.

Once he finally arrived in Vienna, Orson Welles refused to film various scenes in the sewers. Due to his protests, various sets replicating the Vienna sewers had to be constructed by Alexander Korda on sound-stages back in England.

The huge ferris wheel that Martins and Lime ride on in the Prater was erected in 1897. Sigmund Freud claimed to have used it to induce seasickness in patients while experimenting with cocaine as a treatment.

During meetings between Graham Greene and Carol Reed with David O. Selznick, Greene was less than impressed with Selznick, who had (according to Selznick's own son) "become something of a parody of himself". Greene later mocked Selznick's dependency, at that stage, on the drug Dexedrine, better known as "speed". Coincidentally, Reed also became hooked on Dexedrine while shooting the time-consuming film. Both Reed and Selznick were operating on as little as 2 hours of sleep a day.

Somewhat apocryphal stories abound regarding Carol Reed discovering musician Anton Karas while scouring Vienna bars and nightclubs. Reed actually heard Karas playing at a production party and insisted the Austrian zither player come to Reed's hotel room and record songs to use for the contract. Later in production, Reed realized he wanted to use Karas' music for the whole film and flew Karas out to London to record the score. Karas became a top-selling musician thanks to the film and opened a nightclub called "The Third Man" in Vienna, which he ran to the end of his days.

Rumors have long since been widespread that Orson Welles wrote all of Harry Lime's dialogue and even that he took over the direction of his own scenes. Everyone involved, including Welles himself, have always insisted that the film was directed by only Carol Reed. Welles did claim that he wrote most of Lime's dialogue, which is also a fabrication. The extent of Welles' contributions were Lime's grumbling about his stomach problems (which were improvisations) and the famous "cuckoo clock" spiel at the end of the ferris wheel scene.

The Vienna Police Dept. has a special unit that is assigned solely to patrol the city's intricate sewer system, as its network of interlocking tunnels make great hiding places for criminals on the run from the law, stolen property, drugs, etc. The "actors" playing police officers in the film were actually off-duty members of that unit.

Orson Welles evaded production assistants and assistant director Guy Hamilton while traveling in Europe when he was supposed to be on location filming in Vienna. During Welles' unexpected absence, Carol Reed had to film around him, getting numerous spectacular shots in the sewers seen in the finished film. Numerous body doubles for Welles were used, included Hamilton, who was made to wear an over-sized hat and padded coat to approximate Welles' larger size. Reed himself doubled for Welles' hands when they reach through the sewer grate. When Welles finally arrived, he was 2 weeks late.