The Harry Lime Theme & the Powder Puff

Scanographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

How many people in this century could go to a nifty and classy thrift store called the Hop- Too on West broadway and find a strange looking contraption (identified by the knowledgeable and kind women who work there that it was a woman’s powder box) that was also a working music box and immediately identify the tune as the one from Carol Reed’s (story by Graham Greene) The Third Man? Not many but I did. I purchased it with delight for $10. The theme, one that is impossible to forget has lyrics but the story as to how it came to be is nicely recorded by the folks of Wikipedia. I vaguely remember reading in one of my Graham Greene biographies that Greene was in Vienna researching for his film story when the mayor of the city asked him what it was going to be about. Greene answered it was going to be about spies and the underground. It was then that the mayor told him that the city had a large underground sewer system which is most important in this film I first saw with my mother who could not ever decide if she preferred Joseph Cotten over Leslie Howard.

When I purchased the box I thought back to many years ago when I photographed the then most powerful MP of the Pierre Trudeau government, Ron Basford, who was singly responsible for the building of Vancouver’s Granville Island. I wrote about that here. Briefly and to the point I had to removed the shine from Basford’s shiny head with Coffee Mate!

Will I be able to buy powder and a puff for my new music box?

“The Third Man Theme” (also known as “The Harry Lime Theme”) is an instrumental written and performed by Anton Karas for the soundtrack to the 1949 film The Third Man.

Wikipedia

The Harry Lime Theme (The Third Man Theme) YouTube

The Harry Lime Theme

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 first she heard the haunting third man theme?

Carnivals and carousels and Ferris wheels and parasols

The Danube nights, the dancing lights again will shine

The zither’s sweet refrain

Keeps swirling in your brain

Like new may wine

Strauss waltzes, candle-glow

And the laughter of long ago

Fill the magic chords and make it seem like today

You never knew that you could be

Enchanted by a melody

The years will never drive it out

You don’t know why

It’s something you can’t live without

You hear it in the twilight hush

And in the morning traffic rush

A song that’s always new

In your heart a part of you

Oh, shines so brightly when you hear the third man theme

When a zither starts to play

You’ll remember yesterda

In its haunting strain

Vienna lives again

Free and bright and gay

In your mind a sudden gleam

Of a well remembered 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 first she heard the haunting third man theme?

Carnivals and carousels and Ferris wheels and parasols

The Danube nights, the dancing lights again will shine

The zither’s sweet refrain

Keeps swirling in your brain

Like new may wine

Strauss waltzes, candle-glow

And the laughter of long ago

Fill the magic chords and make it seem like today

You never knew that you could be

Enchanted by a melody

The years will never drive it out

You don’t know why

It’s something you can’t live without

You hear it in the twilight hush

And in the morning traffic rush

A song that’s always new

In your heart a part of you

Oh, shines so brightly when you hear the third man theme

Songwriters: Anton Karas

Story

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed. One night after a long day of filming The Third Man on location in Vienna, Reed and cast members Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Welles had dinner and retired to a wine cellar. In the bistro, which retained the atmosphere of the pre-war days, they heard the zither music of Anton Karas, a 40-year-old musician who was playing there just for the tips. Reed immediately realized that this was the music he wanted for his film. Karas spoke only German, which no one in Reed’s party spoke, but fellow customers translated Reed’s offer to the musician that he compose and perform the soundtrack for The Third Man. Karas was reluctant since it meant traveling to England, but he finally accepted. Karas wrote and recorded the 40 minutes of music heard in The Third Man over a six-week period, after the entire film was translated for him at Shepperton Studios.[

The composition that became famous as “The Third Man Theme” had long been in Karas’s repertoire, but he had not played it in 15 years. “When you play in a café, nobody stops to listen,” Karas said. “This tune takes a lot out of your fingers. I prefer playing ‘Wien, Wien’, the sort of thing one can play all night while eating sausages at the same time.”

So prominent is “The Third Man Theme” that the image of its performance on the vibrating strings of the zither provides the background for the film’s main title sequence.

The theme became popular with audiences soon after the film’s premiere, and more than half a million copies of “The Third Man Theme” record were sold within weeks of the film’s release.

The tune was originally released in the UK in 1949, where it was known as “The Harry Lime Theme”. Following its release in the US in 1950 (see 1950 in music), “The Third Man Theme” spent 11 weeks at number one on Billboard’s US Best Sellers in Stores chart, from April 29 to July 8. Its success led to a trend in releasing film theme music as singles. A guitar version by Guy Lombardo also sold strongly. Four other versions charted in the US during 1950.[6] According to Faber and Faber, the different versions of the theme have collectively sold an estimated forty million copies.

Wikipedia

Link to: The Harry Lime Theme & The Powder Puff

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:http://t.co/yf6BbOIQ alexwh@telus.net

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