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The Third Man (1949)

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Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

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Top Rated Movies #129 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Holly Martins
... Anna Schmidt (as Valli)
... Harry Lime
... Maj. Calloway
... Sgt. Paine
... Karl - Harry's Porter (as Paul Hoerbiger)
Ernst Deutsch ... 'Baron' Kurtz
... Popescu
... Dr. Winkel
... Crabbin
... Anna's Old Landlady
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Storyline

An out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins, arrives in a post war Vienna divided into sectors by the victorious allies, and where a shortage of supplies has led to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. From talking to Lime's friends and associates Martins soon notices that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime. Written by Mark Thompson <mrt@oasis.icl.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hunted by men...Sought by WOMEN! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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| |

Release Date:

12 October 1949 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The 3rd Man  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£17,856 (United Kingdom), 18 July 1999, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$13,576, 9 May 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$449,191, 22 November 2015
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the shooting of the film, the final scene was the subject of a dispute between Graham Greene, who wanted the happy ending of the novella, and Carol 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." See more »

Goofs

Three cats were used for Harry Lime's only loved cat, but all three cats were different sizes and colors. See more »

Quotes

Martins: When he was 14, he taught me the three-card trick. That's growing up fast.
Anna Schmidt: He never grew up. The world grew up around him, that's all.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: V I E N N A See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Mr. Potts Goes to Moscow (1952) See more »

Soundtracks

Managua, Nicaragua
(1946) (uncredited)
Music by Irving Fields
Lyrics by Albert Gamse
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
That Terrific B&W Cinematography
20 June 2009 | by See all my reviews

In a bombed-out Vienna just after WWII, novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives from America to renew a friendship with his childhood buddy, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Much to the dismay of Holly, a freak auto accident has recently killed his friend, according to those who knew Harry.

But in searching for details of Lime's death, Holly gets contradictory stories that don't add up. One of the persons who knew Lime is an attractive woman named Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) whose continued presence in the story invites suspicion. The film's plot has Holly searching for the truth about his friend, while trying to stave off a city detective, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) who tries to persuade Holly to leave Vienna.

The film's story is okay. But what makes "The Third Man" really interesting is the B&W cinematography, by Robert Krasker. Unlike most films, camera movement here is restricted, so as to draw attention to each frame's geometry. Typically in this film, a frame is tilted at an angle so that both vertical and horizontal points of reference are off-kilter. Frame images thus become a series of diagonal straight lines and curves. Further, very high-contrast lighting, especially in outdoor scenes at night, creates a bizarre, almost nightmarish look and feel, and are suggestive of German Expressionism.

All of which results in a visual disorientation for viewers that parallels Holly's disorientation both in the streets of Vienna and in his understanding of the circumstances surrounding Lime's absence. In most outdoor scenes there's a conspicuous lack of crowds, a lack of hubbub one would expect in a bustling city. Instead, only a few secondary characters appear in night scenes. This sparseness in characters on the streets conveys the impression that hidden eyes are watching Holly, ready to pounce at any moment from out of dark shadows.

"Everybody ought to (be) careful in a city like this", says one character to Holly, as an implied threat. Soon, a man who wants to give Holly some valuable information is murdered.

The script's dialogue is quite impressive, with some interesting lines and points of view. Some of the dialogue is in German, which enhances authenticity.

The film's acting and editing are very, very good. Adding a slightly romantic, and at times melancholy, tone to this dark film is the music of the "zither", an instrument similar to a guitar, but sounding quite different.

My one complaint about this film is that it's hard to keep tabs on some of the background characters. Trying to connect names with faces can be difficult, resulting in some confusion.

"The Third Man" tells an interestingly bleak story, set in a bleak, desolate urban environment, rendered truly mesmerizing by the creatively surreal B&W cinematography.


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