Orson Welles Remembers The Third Man:
“Every sentence in the whole script is about Harry Lime — nobody talks about anything else for ten reels. And then there’s that shot in the doorway — what a star entrance that was! In theatre, you know, the old star actors never liked to come on until the end of the first act … What matters in that kind of role is not how many lines you have, but how few. What counts is how much the other characters talk about you. Such a star vehicle really is a vehicle. All you have to do is ride. To borrow Cotten and Alida Valli from Selznick, Korda had to make a deal giving David American distribution.
So in America the picture arrived as “David O. Selznick presents/ A David O. Selznick Production / Produced by David O. Selznick,” and so on. All David had done was to loan Alex a couple of actors. Alex dreamed up the whole project, in every sense of the word produced it, but David took the bows. I was sitting with them about two years after the picture had opened — when all Europe was still reverberating with the strains of the “Third Man Theme,” and Alex said, “You know, David, I hope I don’t die before you do.” “Oh!” said David. “Why?” And Alex said, “I hate the thought of you sneaking out to the graveyard at night and scratching my name off the tombstone.” — This Is Orson Welles (New York: Harper Collins, 1992)
There’s some truth in an old saying: ‘Movies aren’t Written – They’re Re-Written, and Re-Written and Rewritten.’ Graham Greeene, when discussing his screenplay entitled The Third Man that he wrote for producer Alexander Korda and director Carol Reed, has said something very near to this. Moreover, close examination of his original – of the published screenplay and of footnotes to it that indicate subsequent alterations and the changes between the text and the film itself – provides one of the very best accounts that is available of the complex and sometimes mysterious process of the evolutionary stages of the work done by a writer and director.
Shadowing The Third Man (2004) explores the making of Graham Greene’s all time classic film The Third Man. This is the first documentary ever to be made on this much-loved film which was voted the best British film of the 20th century in a BFI poll. The programme will tell the story of how the film was born from one sentence imagined by Graham Greene; “I saw a man walking down the Strand, whose funeral I had only recently attended.”
Shadowing the Third Man literally projects the classic 1948 feature film back to the original locations in the Austrian capital Vienna. Using state-of-the-art projection technology, the stunning images created by Carol Reed and the Oscar®-winning Director of Photography, Robert Krasker are beamed on a huge scale on to the glorious architecture of present-day restored Vienna and the city reclaims its place as one of the central characters in the film.
The viewers will see how the great British director Carol Reed used the ruins of a bombed out city, just 3 years after WWII to set a superb stage for such stars as Orson Welles (The unforgettable Harry Lime), Joseph Cotton, (the naive American novelist, Holly Martins), Trevor Howard (The suave controlled English officer Major Calloway) and Alida Valli (The coldly beautiful refugee Anna).
Two of the last remaining members of the crew have returned to Vienna to tour the locations and bring the filming to life. The Assistant Director Guy Hamilton, who went on to direct three Bond movies is joined by the continuity assistant Angela Allen, to tell what it was like to film in the Vienna sewers, and how a drunk Trevor Howard was arrested for impersonating a British officer, while still in his costume as the sober Major Calloway.
The documentary opens with a typical Graham Greene line; “Isn’t it rather dangerous to mix fact and fiction?” For the next 60 minutes the Anglo-Austrian director Frederick Baker will take the audience at BBC4 on a journey, following Greene’s story and dividing fact from fiction in the making of this classic. Orson Welles did deliver the famous cuckoo clock speech, but Graham Greene wrote the rest. Orson Welles is seen to die in the Vienna sewers, but the water he splashes through is from the Thames not the Danube. The sewers had to be rebuilt just for Welles, because as an American the real ones were too unhygienic. There was a penicillin racket in Vienna at the time and a world expert on penicillin tells of his first-hand knowledge of the desperate need for this drug in the aftermath of the war. Using a mixture of newsreel footage and archive the film will fill in the facts about the emerging Cold war, and the geo-political east-west tensions against which the film is set.
Finally, Shadowing the Third Man looks at the fascinating creative east-west tensions between the British and American views of the world, as Alexander Korda in London, and David O. Selznick in LA, the film’s two immensely powerful Co-executive Producers battled it out behind the scenes to form the film in their respective images.
Executive Producer: Avril MacRory
Director/Writer: Frederick Baker
BW&C-60m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.