Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

The Third Man

The Third Man (1949) is a film directed by Carol Reed, with a script written for the screen by the novelist Graham Greene, who later wrote a novel based on the film. The story is set in a bomb-damaged Vienna just after the Second World War and concerns a black-market gangster named Harry Lime, who is trafficking in penicillin of poor quality. The film is told from the point of view of an author, Holly Martins, who is looking for Lime, a friend.

The distinctive musical score was composed and played on a zither by Anton Karas (1906-1985). A single The Third Man Theme released in 1950 (Decca in UK, London Records in USA) became a bestseller, and later an LP was released.


The film won the 1949 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival, a British Academy Award for Best Film, and an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography in 1950.

The film was also voted the best British film of all time by the British Film Institute.

Such is Orson Welles's fame as a director that many people erroneously believe that he directed the film.

A radio drama series called The Third Man and centering on the adventures of Harry Lime (voiced by Welles) subsequent to his "death in Vienna" ran for a number of seasons.

A television series was later created out of the film, with Michael Rennie starring as Harry Lime.


Looking down upon the people beneath from his vantage point on top of the large Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park, Lime compares them to ants, prior to making the now famous remark, "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

See Also: List of movies - List of actors - List of directors - List of documentaries - List of Hollywood movie studios