Composer and Zither-master Anton Karas had quite a career following the release of The Third Man
(1949). His "3rd Man Theme" (as it was more commonly written out) was a worldwide hit. Consequently, the tune was covered by many artists and performers throughout the 1950s and beyond. The tune was adapted to almost every musical style and taste, from Big Band, calypso, space-age, cha-cha, Hawaiian, rock, and more. For the Hi-Fi-listening public of the day, the tune was performed by the likes of Guy Lombardo, Esquivel, Ray Coniff, Jackie Gleason, Herb Alpert, Nelson Riddle, Ben Pollack, and many more. In the Rock era, The Band and The Shadows covered the tune, and during the "Get Back" sessions in 1969, even the Beatles took a stab at it. More recently, The Del Rubio Triplets performed it on their 1991 album of cover songs, Whip It
. Sheet music sales for the song in the 50s were very brisk. There was also a set of lyrics written for the tune, by Walter Lord:
When a zither starts to play
You'll remember yesterday
In its haunting strain, Vienna lives again, free and bright and gay.
In your mind a sudden gleam
Of a half forgotten dream,
Seems to glimmer when you hear the third man theme
Once again there comes to mind
Someone that you left behind
Love that somehow didn't last
In that happy city of the past.
Does she still recall the dream
That rapture so supreme
When she first heard the haunting third man theme?
Incredibly, the popularity of the music even spawned merchandise for the film. The Harbert Company of New York City, maker of toy musical instruments, marketed a "3rd Man Junior Zither" in 1950. It came with sheets with the notes of the "3rd Man Theme" and several other popular songs printed out "in sensational easy-to-play chart form." Laying the sheet under the strings, a child or amateur could pick out a tune with the accompanying felt pick. The zither, music sheets, and box all featured the movie logo and artwork of Harry Lime.
The popularity of The Third Man
, and especially the charm and allure of Harry Lime as a character, spawned spin-off series for both radio and television. Orson Welles had been a fixture on radio since the late 1930s of course, through such series as "Mercury Theatre on the Air," "Campbell Playhouse," and "Orson Welles Almanac." Beginning in 1951 he could be heard as the title character in the British series "The Adventures of Harry Lime." A total of 52 half-hour episodes were recorded, several of which were also written by Welles. The premise was set up every week: After the audience hears Lime met his death in the sewers of Vienna in the opening, we hear Welles say, "Harry Lime had many lives. And I can recount all of them. How do I know? It's very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime." The stories are flashbacks, then, of a less villainous but nevertheless roguish adventurer and opportunist hopping the globe in search of romance and easy riches. In one notable episode written by Welles, "Man of Mystery," Lime meets up with eccentric financer Gregory Arkadin. In this show Welles was developing ideas he would later incorporate into his film Mr. Arkadin
, released in 1955.
In 1959, the BBC and Twentieth-Century Fox co-produced a syndicated TV series called The Third Man
, but it bore little resemblance to the film. Michael Rennie starred as a much more respectable Harry Lime, now an art dealer jet setting the world and solving crimes with a sidekick played by Jonathan Harris. Seventy-seven half-hour episodes were produced. Although this series did not follow the lead of the film, it did set a tone for subsequent TV jet-setters, such as those in The Saint
and I Spy
Since Graham Greene is so associated with the Cold War Spy mythos, both in fact and in his fiction, and since the spy genre was to become so important to the 1960s British film industry, it should be no surprise that there are connections between The Third Man
and the later James Bond series of films. Reed's assistant director, Guy Hamilton, went on to a notable directing career of his own, most conspicuously at the helm of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger
(1964) which many regard as the quintessential Bond movie. The others he directed were Diamonds Are Forever
(1971), Live and Let Die
(1973), and The Man With the Golden Gun
(1974). Hamilton also directed the non-Bond spy thriller Funeral in Berlin
Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine in the film) made his career by playing a long line of police detectives, military men, inspectors, customs officers, and spies. He is fondly remembered today for his long-standing role as M, James Bond's boss. He originated the role in the first Bond film, Dr. No
(1962), and went on to play the role in no less than eleven of the films in the series. He also played variations of the role in many send-ups and parodies throughout the 60s and into the 70s. Orson Welles himself played in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale
by John Miller