Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Third Man (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Third Man (1949, UK)

In director Carol Reed's British classic drama of geopolitical intrigue and espionage, enhanced by the haunting zither music soundtrack by Anton Karas, with the tagline: had the tagline: "HUNTED...By a thousand men! Haunted...By a lovely girl!"

  • in the film's opening, the moody scenes of a shattered, post-war Vienna - a devastated city racked with crime
  • the graveyard scene as Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was buried (he had allegedly been killed after being struck by a truck, but he had faked his death) - it was thought that a "third man" helped to carry Lime's dead body after the incident
  • Harry Lime's American unemployed pulp novelist friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) and Harry's dark-haired mistress lover Anna (Alida Valli) were in attendance; Anna was Harry's grieving, depressed, Czech mistress/girlfriend, and a Russian exile and refugee; she was employed as an actress at a local theater; Anna exuded a fatalistically-romantic attraction for Harry, partially because he had fixed papers (and passport) for her to avoid repatriation or deportation by the Russians
Harry Lime's Funeral-Graveyard Scene - Anna and Holly Martins
Anna in Attendance
Anna Walking Home From Cemetery
  • after the ceremony, cynical British military police officer Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) told Martins about Lime's suspected occupation - a post-war black marketeer, involved in the theft of penicillin from the military hospitals, dilution to make it go further, and the watered-down drug's sale to patients (including children) through the black market for a profit: "He was about the worst racketeer that ever made a dirty living in this city...You could say that murder was part of his racket"
  • Holly looked up Anna following the funeral and found her working as an actress on stage at the Josefstadt Theatre; she looked shattered by the sudden death of her onetime lover; when Holly asked if Anna was in love with Harry, she answered: "I don't know. How can you know a thing like that afterwards? I don't know anything more except I want to be dead too"; the two visited Harry's old apartment and while Holly asked questions about Harry's strange lethal accident, she wandered into the adjoining bedroom that she knew intimately - she combed her hair in front of the mirror and looked at an old photograph of herself
  • when Anna returned home, she discovered that Calloway had ordered a search of her apartment, and confiscated her faked passport (presumably forged by Harry) and Harry's love letters to her; she was taken to be detained at the international police station for questioning before being released
  • Holly visited Anna in her apartment where he found her disturbed by loneliness and the passing of Harry - she asked for Holly to speak about his childhood with Harry: "I've been alone, without friends and money. But I've never known anything like this. Please talk. Tell me about him." After a short while when he was ready to go, she vowed to never fall in love again - and then encouraged Holly: "You know, you ought to find yourself a girl"
  • later that night, he drunkenly returned to revisit Anna, bringing her flowers; she was mournfully lying in bed in the shadows, and wearing Harry Lime's striped, monogrammed pajamas (HL on the left front); he drunkenly called out to Anna's cat, but the cat ignored him and jumped out the window - and was seen out on the street nuzzling up to a stranger's shoe in the shadows. Anna claimed Harry was the only person the cat liked. Although she couldn't bear criticism of Harry, after learning from Holly that Harry was a ruthless black marketeer, Anna now believed that Harry was "better dead. I knew he was mixed up, but not like that." Holly was bitter that his good friend was engaged in a deadly racket.
  • by this time, the doltish hack writer had hopelessly fallen in unrequited love with the melancholy Anna but she was unresponsive to his clumsy advances. He offered himself to her: ("I'd make comic faces and stand on my head and grin at you between my legs and learn all sorts of jokes. Wouldn't stand a chance would I? Hmmm? Well, you did tell me I ought to find myself a girl"); a tear fell from her eye, but she was completely uninterested
Holly's Flowers For Anna
Anna's Rejection of Holly's Love Interest
A Tear Fell From Her Eye
  • outside Anna's apartment, as the dejected Holly walked off, he became aware of a figure in a doorway on the opposite side of the street when he saw Anna's cat in the shadows, snuggling next to a person's black shoes in a doorway. The cat was licking itself, and tipping off the presence of a silent and motionless person there. The figure's big shoes were illuminated - was it one of Calloway's men, underworld thugs or an intelligence agent? Holly abusively, drunkenly, and defiantly shouted out to the figure. A light from an irritated neighbor's upstairs window briefly illuminated the figure's face - shining straight across the street.
  • in a famous scene, the presumed-dead Harry Lime made a delayed appearance about mid-way through the film - from a shadow inside a doorway, an overhead light illuminated his enigmatic, smirking, devilish face and Anna's cat snuggled at his feet; the light was quickly extinguished, and before Holly could reach his friend, a car approached and blocked his path by coming between them. The figure made off and vanished to the sound of retreating footsteps in the dark.
The Sudden Appearance of Harry Lime in the Shadows
  • Holly's suspicions that Lime was still alive were confirmed when his coffin was dug up and the body was found to be that of police informant Joseph Harbin, the medical orderly who had acted as a police informer against Lime. Anna was visibly stunned and gratified by the news given to her by Calloway, although she also regretted it: "Poor Harry. I wish he was dead. He would be safe from all of you then"
  • a legendary gripping encounter then occurred between Lime and Martins at the top of the Prater Ferris wheel high above a Viennese fairground; Lime first explained how he didn't want to be a hero: "What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn't expect me to give myself up...'It's a far, far better thing that I do.' The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories"; Lime also contemptuously looked down from the ferris wheel at the scuttling mortals below, cheerfully calling the people unrecognizable "dots" from the height of the ride: "Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?"
  • then, once they had descended, Lime delivered a callous, perverse "cuckoo clock" monologue about Switzerland and cuckoo clocks, arguing that there was greater productivity in a warring, strife-ridden culture and civilization than in a peaceful one; the corruptible Lime cynically justified his black market criminal activities, and equated the corrupt political intrigues of the Borgias to the artistic triumphs of Michelangelo and da Vinci: "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but 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"
  • ultimately, Holly decided to set up Lime in exchange for Anna's freedom from deportation to the Russians (because of her forged passport) after Calloway asked him to name his "price." In the Vienna Railway Station cafe, where Anna was about to board a train to take her away to be saved, she learned that Holly was betraying their mutual friend to the police in return for helping to get her out of Vienna safely - and she was furious. She vowed to remain faithful to Harry no matter what she knew about him, even if her own freedom was at stake
  • out of ignorance and her dedication to her role as the doomed man's mistress, Anna didn't want to betray or sell out Harry ("I'm not going!"), because she loved him for what he was: "I don't want him anymore. I don't want to see him, hear him. But he's still a part of me, that's a fact. I couldn't do a thing to harm him.... If you want to sell your services, I'm not willing to be the price. I loved him. You loved him. What good have we done him? Love! Look at yourself. They have a name for faces like that?" She ripped up her new passport and departed with her belongings from the train.
  • the concluding sequence was prefaced by the presence of guards and police searching for Lime in the city. Holly agreed to be a decoy and arranged to meet Lime at Cafe Marc Aurel with police staked out to arrest the black marketeer. Anna arrived and denounced Holly: "Honest, sensible, sober, harmless Holly Martins. Holly - what a silly name. You must feel very proud to be a police informer" just before Harry entered the cafe - she was able to warn him of the danger he faced ("Harry, get away, the police are outside - Quick!"), and he fled
  • the film ended with fugitive Harry Lime being sought by authorities, led by British Army police official, Major Calloway; there was a thrilling, extraordinary chase sequence, first through bomb-sites and down an open manhole, and then into the passageways of subterranean dark sewers and tunnels under Vienna that still linked all the occupied sections of the city; the climactic scenes were sharply edited for greater impact; the sewers were the dark, unobserved haunt of wounded black marketeer Harry Lime where his 'underground' evil-doings had permeated through the borders of the city's zones; in the manhunt by an international police force composed of police from all four nations, the filming captured the dark shadows on the ancient tunnel walls and the cobblestone surfaces
  • after a long pursuit sequence, Harry shot Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee) dead with the gunshots echoing off the tunnel walls. Lime was shot and wounded by Major Calloway as he scrambled away
  • as fugitive Harry made another break to escape, he was caught and cornered like a rat in the bowels of Vienna; he crawled up a circular iron stairway to reach a grill-covered man-hole - his fingers clutched, curled, strained and poked through the sewer grill grating (filmed from the street level) as he desperately and vainly tried to push it up, but he had been weakened by his gunshot wound from Calloway and was unable to move the solidly-jammed grill cover and flee into the street
Chase After Harry Lime into the Sewer
Harry Lime - On the Run and Firing Back
Holly Martins Joining in the Pursuit
Wounded and Crawling Up Circular Stairway to Man-Hole
Trying to Push Open Sewer Grating
Lime's Fingers Extended Through Sewer Grating
  • Martins noticed Harry at the top of the iron stairway beneath the grating, and found his old friend struggling there, in great pain and fear; Calloway shouted out from a distance: "Be careful, Martins. Don't take any chances, if you see him, shoot"
  • Harry looked down and saw Holly looking up at him; he wordlessly appealed to his friend Holly, making a wink-like gesture or nod, to shoot; ironically, it had been left to Holly to kill his oldest friend; a gunshot sounded off-screen - and Calloway halted; Holly's silhouette appeared at the end of the smoky tunnel - he had pulled the trigger and shot his friend dead - an ending typical of a Western tale; he had treacherously murdered and betrayed his oldest, closest and trusted friend
  • in the famed ending after Harry's second funeral and burial in the same cemetery that opened the film (it was a second funeral ceremony for Lime), an exquisite closing sequence, Holly attempted to say goodbye to Anna. Leaving the graveyard in Calloway's vehicle, he asked to be let out; he awaited her approach toward him down the tree-lined, empty cemetery avenue, but she deliberately walked by and stoically ignored him and continued on, passing by the awaiting Holly without paying any attention

Post-War Vienna

Holly Martins' Arrival in Vienna

Major Calloway with Holly Martins

Anna as Actress in Local Theater

Anna Combing Hair in Harry's Apartment

Calloway Searching Anna's Apartment and Taking Harry's Love Letters

Anna to Holly: "You ought to find yourself a girl"

Anna's Pajamas with Harry's Monogram

Lime's Ferris Wheel Encounter

Lime's "Cuckoo Clock" Speech

At Train Station - Anna: "I'm not going!" - She Ripped Up Her Passport

Anna Warning Harry at Cafe: "Harry, get away, the police are outside - Quick!"

Holly Looking Up at the Cornered Harry Lime and Being Given Permission to Kill

Holly At the End of the Tunnel

Anna's Exit After Harry's 2nd Funeral


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