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Awards and Honors:

The Third Man won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1949.

The Third Man received a justly deserved Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Cinematography, which went to Robert Krasker. Also nominated were Carol Reed for Best Director and Oswald Hafenrichter for Best Film Editing. Perhaps the film would have done better had it been released in the U.S. in 1949. Because of the haggling over terms between Korda and Selznick, the film did not play in Los Angeles until early 1950, causing it to be ineligible to collect an Oscar® until 1951.

In 1950, The Third Man won for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards.

The Third Man topped the "BFI 100," a list of a hundred of "the best British films ever" compiled by the British Film Institute in 1999/2000.

The Critics' Corner: THE THIRD MAN

Time magazine noted that the film had already been hailed by critics in Britain, and that U.S. moviegoers were likely to find it one of the best movies of 1950. They go on to say that the film "...adds an extra depth of character insight and a new texture of pictorial eloquence to the kind of spellbinding thriller that made Alfred Hitchcock famous." The reviewer gives much credit to Reed, saying that in his hands "...a shot of a body floating in the Danube tells a story of its own, a shot of a cat licking a man's shoe becomes a chilling premonition of shock." Time finds flaws in the film, but says these are "...largely the product of its brilliance." In a clear indication of the low esteem to which Welles was held by the press at the time, the review concludes by saying "the ultimate proof of Reed's powers as a director: he has managed to get a temperate, first-rate performance out of Orson Welles." - Time, February 1950.

"The haunting music of a zither, the ring of Vienna's cobbled streets, and a ghostly Graham Greene story about a manhunt in that seamy capitol flow smoothly and beautifully together into one piece of top screen artifice in Carol Reed's...The Third Man. But we feel we are bound to inform you that our key word is 'artifice.'...for the simple fact is that The Third Man, for all the awesome hoopla it has received, is essentially a first-rate contrivance in the way of melodrama - and that's all. It isn't a penetrating study of any European problem of the day... It doesn't present any 'message.' It hasn't a point of view. It is just a bang-up melodrama, designed to excite and entertain." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, February 1950.

"A complete, striking demonstration of the use of art for art's sake, with cinema molds shattered effortlessly. Carol Reed is a picture Titan of genius." - New York Daily Mirror, February 1950.

The Third Man is "...the supreme movie about the night-world, the ultimate example of that shining-streets-and-lurking-shadows 'realism' that was so popular in the forties. But in addition to the famous atmosphere-the knowing, world-weary people; the magnificent imperial ruins; the alternatingly menacing and ingratiating zither music-The Third Man sustains a mood of pessimistic irony...which seemed to reveal the nasty and permanent truth about adult experience, the truth that you could not feel superior to as you got older; life was not orderly and sane, but chaotic, sordid and dangerous; you didn't get what you wanted or possibly deserved; moral virtue, honesty and even courage might count for very little, and these qualities, as well as being useless, might make you unappealing to women and a general nuisance to everyone else. With its extravagant, almost voluptuous pessimism, The Third Man provides a pleasurable consolation in bad moments, a reassurance that nothing was ever meant to go right in the first place. It's so enjoyable, in part, because it gives the viewer the agreeable sensation of having confronted the worst." - David Denby, Favorite Movies: Critic's Choice, 1973.

"...A tour de force on postwar Vienna...for decades The Third Man has worked as a mystery: you can smell the sewers, the fear, and the mistrust in Vienna. A time and a place were captured; scenario and locale were stirred, like cream going into dark coffee. Joseph Cotten and Holly Martins are from a writer's forgotten drawer. But Trevor Howard, Valli, and the wolfish Viennese faces tell the truth. The Third Man has one of the most intense atmospheres the screen has ever delivered." - David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.

"It is the highpoint of the British entertainment film between 1946 and 1958...Not surprisingly, the moral lessons of The Third Man tend to be obscured by the accumulation of incidents and sinister characters. The clich├ęs of melodrama abound, but the total spell continues to fascinate, a spell worked partly by the crystalline photography of Robert Krasker and the tantalizing, regretful zither music of Anton Karas." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema.

"There is an ambiguity about our relation to the Cotten character: he is alone against the forces of the city and, in a final devastating stroke, he is even robbed of the illusion that the girl (Alida Valli) is interested in him, yet his illusions are so commonplace that his disillusion does not strike us deeply. Greene has made him a shallow, ineffectual, well-meaning American." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"The film owes debts to the Grierson/Rotha tradition of British documentary film, as well as to the post-war neorealism of Rossellini's Roma Citta Aperta [1945] and De Sica's Ladri de Biciclette [1948]; like its Italian predecessors, The Third Man studies the effects of post-war economic and social corruption within the context of a once grand though now rubble-strewn European capital...But overshadowing all of these influences is the presence of Orson Welles in the role of Harry Lime." - Leland Poague, The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers.

"This thriller is...in some ways a portrait of the "cold war," then in its early stages. Carol Reed's perfectly controlled technique, somewhat reminiscent of Lang and Hitchcock, creates an overwhelming melancholy atmosphere that is heightened by the haunting, relentless zither music and the sharply drawn and well-acted characters." - George Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

Compiled by John M. Miller




















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