As popular as it justifiably remains among classic movie fans — it’s one of those movies you can enjoy over and over — 1949′s The Third Man remains a subject of persistent debate among some critics and cineastes. It seems to be too enjoyable to be a really great movie.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here to report that we love the picture without the slightest qualification.
Director Carol Reed’s handling of novelist Graham Greene’s serialized original story and screenplay — with a superb cast of Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, Trevor Howard as Major Calloway, Orson Welles as Harry Lime and Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt, Limes’ paramour with a questionable past — makes the picture, in our view, one of the best ever.
Who can disagree? One critic for The New York Times, no longer with the paper, complained about The Third Man’s signature musical score — by lone zither player Anton Karas. Heresy, we say!
Welles biographers blithely credit the movie’s excellence to his presence both in front and in back of the camera. Writes author David Thomson: a good case can be made for attributing the ‘authorship’ of the movie to Welles. We don’t go along with that, and we’ll cover that point in our quiz.
Who can resist The Third Man’s marvelous evocation of war torn Vienna, its superb cinematography by Australian-born Robert Krasker (who justifiably won an Oscar for his work), its dramatic chase scenes shot in the Vienna sewers and, especially, its unexpectedly ambiguous final shot.
OK, you get the point. Let’s get to our quiz.
1) Yes, the official credits say Greene is the The Third Man’s screenwriter, but didn’t veteran producer David O. Selznick really mastermind the whole movie? True or False?
2) The Third Man was originally considered a dull title for such an interesting thriller, and other titles were considered. Which of the following alternatives were seriously mulled? 1) European Intrigue; 2) Night In Vienna; 3) Four-Power Foul Play; or 4) Get Harry Lime?
3) Included in The Third Man cast are superb character actors from several countries. One went on to become popularly identified by a continuing role in the James Bond movies. Which one? 1) Wilfrid-Hyde White; 2) Paul Horbiger (3) Bernard Lee; or 4) Erich Ponto?
4) Joseph Cotten complained about the name of the character he played, and asked that it be changed. Was it changed? Yes or no? If so, what was the character’s name changed to?
5) The Third Man posed a real financial opportunity for chronically spendthrift Orson Welles? He blew it, though by: 1) not negotiating for a large salary upfront; 2) not receiving a portion of the movie’s box office receipts; 3) not getting a slice of the production’s merchandising rights; or 4) none of the above.
6) Trevor Howard, playing a British major in the movie, got into serious trouble with four-powers police in Vienna during The Third Man shooting. What happened? 1) he confessed to being a member of the Communist Party; 2) he had an off-camera punch up with Orson Welles in a local restaurant; 3) found himself a suspect in a string of small-time burglaries; or 4) got blind drunk in public while wearing his military uniform costume?
7) Who actually wrote the movie’s memorable Ferris Wheel scene including the line about peaceful Switzerland’s sole contribution to the world as ‘the cuckoo clock?’ 1) Greene; 2) Green with director Carol Reed; 3) Orson Welles; 4) Welles with Joseph Cotten?
8) Can you identify the nationality of actress Alida Valli? Was she 1) Austrian ; 2) American; 3) Italian; or 4) Croatian?
9) The Third Man marked the screenwriting debut of novelist Greene? True or false? If not, can you name his first film?
10) The movie’s marvelous ending in a frozen Viennese cemetery was dreamed up by Joseph Cotten. True or false?
Answers soon, so please check in with us daily.