The Third Man (Making)

Source: Wikipedia

When you watch a movie making documentaries and the related interviews, you get to know how many people got involved and most importantly how many more  people lives have been touched in the process.

Movies are also a unique source of learning management as so many people get together, live and work together during the course of the picture. It’s almost like a mini company with all stages of management involved right from envisioning, hiring, inducting,planning, executing it day by day.

“The Third Man’ movie making features provide several interesting tidbits both related to the movie and also the management aspects.

Here are a few.

  1. Director Carol Reed during his Vienna’s sightseeing trips, stumbled upon Anton Kara and his zither in a hotel. He immediately recorded his music in his hotel room, with pillows as padding to the doors for sound proofing.  Later, this music couldn’t be used, however a fresh recording was done in the studio. Rest they say is history.
  2. Orson Welles played difficult to get, just to hike his fee. Director Carol Reed went along with it and agreed to all his terms. Infact, he used these challenges to good effect, while filming his entrance in the movie and also the climax scene. Accommodating a difficult yet talented actor, was done for the overall film’s good, and it worked wonders for Carol Reed.
  3. David O.Selznick ( a chain smoker) had three secretaries and he dictated all of his memos to them, and he worked late into the night up to 2am. While not all of his inputs were taken into consideration (like improving the costume of the heroine), crew did act on quite a few that proved beneficial.
  4. Writer Graham Greene wanted a happy ending with Anna and Holly getting together. Director disagreed and prevailed.
  5. The dialogue about cuckoo clock and Switzerland came out of Orson Welles improvisation.
  6. Guy Hamilton who was an assistant director to Carol Reed, was a stand in double for Orson Welles for a few scenes, including the running shadow scenes. He later went to direct a few James Bond films, including ‘Diamonds are Forever’.
  7. The European actors were more popular than the English actors, and their popularity was used to get permissions while shooting in hotels etc.

Tidbit: Did the scene of transformation for Holly Martins inspire that of Jayabadhuri and Amitabh in Zanjeer?

The Third Man

‘The Third Man’ released in 1939, still packs a punch in terms of storytelling and various crafts of movie making. The film sports an ensemble cast and crew, with an international co-production helmed by Alexander Korda and David O.Selznick.

‘The Third man’ kicks off with the fiction writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), reaching Vienna to meet his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Holly is in for a shock when he is told Harry is dead. He quickly recovers from it and soon, his simple fact finding mission turns into a full-fledged investigation in Harry’s death.

The movie is set in two parts. Act 1 (with the inciting incident of Harry’s death), is about a writer who can be accused of resorting to flights of fancy and imagination, considering his profession, and is unnecessarily meddling with an open and shut case as projected by police. Act 2 (inciting incident being Harry or his ghost appearance), is when Holly knows the truth. Act 3 (inciting incidents being his conversation with Anna, and then the unscheduled stop at the hospital), is his struggle to come to terms with and his necessity to act or withdraw.

Orson Welles charm is in full flow and his dramatic entrance is whistle worthy in the halls. His character though comes much later in the movie, still holds your attention. Rest of the characters too, are etched out in interesting details. One noteworthy aspect of it is that, all the characters right from the point of their introduction stay true to their core, irrespective of the story movement. The only person who changes and is forced to, is Holly Martins character. It’s a difficult feat to achieve in story-telling, especially with so many important characters.

The climax is well shot and deserves a special mention. So, is the music by Anton Karas and his ‘zither’ based compositions.

Charley Varrick

Walter Matthau on the paper might have been a wrong choice but he proved his detractors wrong by his understated performance. (Donald Sutherland was the first choice, but the producers wanted an Easter friendly audience, so he was dropped). Don Siegel directed this film just after ‘Dirty Harry’ and the excellence of efficiency continues. Right from the word go, he weaves a thriller of different sorts, never losing the human touch. ‘Charley Varrick’ is a worth revisit anytime, and over the years has aged like good wine.

Lalo Schifrin’s haunting score adds the gravitas to the proceedings. When asked in the making feature, he mentions he went in for the percussion based instrument, to represent Charley Varrick’s mind that was always ticking and thinking about the next move, yet no one knew exactly what. Incidentally, Walter Matthau played it the same way, as he man who kept his emotions and enemies in check, always thinking ahead.

The climax chase is one of its kind, which once again would seem far fetched on paper, but when shot the way Don Siegel did, is believable in its every frame.

Here’s a good video about the film.

Related Links

Interesting article on the movie