Orson Welles’s Harry Lime steals the show (and anything else he can get his hands on) in stunning 1949 noir The Third Man set amid the ruins of post-War Vienna, and featuring perhaps the most memorable chase sequence in cinema
Joseph Cotten is Holly Martins, a hack writer arriving in Vienna shortly after the end of WWII. He plans to meet up with his old friend, Harry Lime, but discovers that he has recently been killed in a road accident. He is told a few home truths about his old chum by a British Army officer (Trevor Howard) and from Lime’s distraught girlfriend (Alida Valli), and focuses his own energies on trying to discover the identity of the third man who helped carry Lime’s body from the street.
As is so often the way, the film was the result of diverse ingredients, among them careful planning and good luck. It was producer Alexander Korda’s idea to set the film in a divided Vienna, and, in the course of Graham Greene’s research, he happened upon the city’s thriving post-War trade in black-market penicillin, and the illicit use of the city’s sewer network.
The film’s success was sealed by Welles’s film-stealing extended cameo, the off-kilter, Oscar-winning photography of Robert Krasker, and the instantly evocative zither score by Anton Karas, who director Carol Reed discovered while scouting locations in Vienna.
The cast also included Bernard Lee and Wilfred Hyde-WHite.
Trivia: Welles left the set before the sewer sequence could be completed. The hands which reach through the sewer grate are actually those of director, Reed.
Classic Quote: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror and bloodshed, but they produced Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. – Harry Lime (Orson Welles) supplies a touch of evil.
Awards: Best Cinematography (1951) Academy Awards, USA – Robert Krasker
Joseph Cotten Holly Martins
Alida Valli Anna Schmidt
Orson Welles Harry Lime
Trevor Howard Major Calloway
Paul Hörbiger Karl the Porter
Ernst Deutsch ‘Baron’ Kurtz
Erich Ponto Dr. Winkel
Siegfried Breuer Popescu
Hedwig Bleibtreu Anna’s Landlady
Bernard Lee Sergeant Paine
Wilfrid Hyde-White Crabbin
Alexis Chesnakov Col. Brodsky the Russian Liaison Officer (uncredited)
Thomas Gallagher Taxi Driver (uncredited)
Herbert Halbik Hänsel the Little Boy with Ball (uncredited)
Hannah Norbert Actress at Josefstadt Theater (uncredited)
Producer Alexander Korda
Producer David O. Selznick
Assistant Director Guy Hamilton
Sound Supervisor John Cox
Director of Photography Robert Krasker
Makeup Artist George Frost
Director Carol Reed
Producer Carol Reed
Screenplay Graham Greene
Associate Producer Hugh Perceval
Original Music Composer Anton Karas
Musician Anton Karas
Editor Oswald Hafenrichter
Camera Operator Edward Scaife
Sound Recordist Red Law
United Kingdom / London Film Productions / 105 minutes / Released 1949-08-31