Vandaag is het zeventig jaar geleden dat The Third Man, een Britse film noir van regisseur Carol Reed, in première ging. Het scenario is van de hand van Graham Greene. De film zou de Gouden Palm in Cannes winnen and it became the most popular film in the UK in 1949. The Austrians, however, did not care for it, although tot op de dag van vandaag the movie is playing three times a week in the famous Burgkino. Moreover, there are canal tours called “Der Dritte Man -Tour” which visit the exact places where the scenes of Harry Lime being chased by the police were shot.

Het verhaal speelt zich af in het naoorlogse Wenen, een kapotgeschoten ruïne, die bovendien door de geallieerde overwinnaars (Amerika, Rusland, Frankrijk en het Verenigd Koninkrijk) in vieren is opgedeeld. De wederopbouw moet nog beginnen, alleen het beroemde reuzenrad uit 1897 draait alweer. In de stad is gebrek aan van alles, onder meer penicilline. Harry Lime heeft daarvoor een oplossing. (Wikipedia)

De film vertelt het verhaal van de geheimzinnige Harry Lime (Orson Welles in een meesterlijke vertolking) die wordt achternagezeten door zijn vroegere vriend (Joseph Cotton), ondertussen een schrijver van wild‑west romannetjes. Met bekende leitmotiv van Anton Karas telkens Harry Lime in beeld verschijnt. Rumours 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” quote at the end of the ferris wheel scene: “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 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 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

In “The third man” herkennen we verder nog Alida Valli (Anna) en Trevor Howard (Calloway). Having scored a notable success pairing director Carol Reed with writer Graham Greene the year before with The Fallen Idol, producer Alexander Korda was very keen to replicate the pairing. Regie-assistent was Guy Hamilton, de latere regisseur van o.a. “Goldfinger”.

With its preference for real locations and real local people as extras, the film is also Britain’s first attempt at the neo-realistic style that Italian directors like Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini were making so popular at the time.

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. 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.”

Orson Welles refused to be filmed in Vienna’s sewers. Due to his protests, various sets replicating the Vienna sewers had to be constructed by Alexander Korda on sound-stages back in England. Close-ups were shot in London Film Studios, while numerous body doubles were used for wide shots, including Hamilton, who was made to wear an over-sized hat and padded coat to approximate Welles’ larger size. 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, but the hands actually used in that shot belong to director Carol Reed.

In 1951-1952 Orson Welles starred in a British radio series “The Adventures of Harry Lime” [broadcast in the United States as “The Lives of Harry Lime”] based on the early adventures of his character in this film.

A huge fan of the film, Martin Scorsese wrote a major thesis on it whilst in film school. He got a B+ for it, his tutor remarking “Forget it, it’s just a thriller”.

In May 1999, it was announced that John McTiernan would be directing a modern day remake set in New York with Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor starring. It failed to materialise, presumably much to the delight of famed screenwriter Buck Henry, who on hearing of The Big Sleep (1978) said, “Enough is enough, if anyone tries to remake The Third Man, I’ll take a shotgun to them”. Ter herinnering: Buck Henry, één van de scenaristen van “The Graduate”, speelt in “The Player” van Robert Altman een scenarist die een sequel op “The Graduate” komt voorstellen… (Internet Movie Database)

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