On earlier trips to Vienna we had already gone off in search of some of the filming locations: Harry Lime’s apartment at Josefsplatz 5, the Riesenrad ferris wheel in Prater park, Hotel Sacher, the Wedding Fountain at Hoher Markt and a couple of others, including of course Schreyvogelgasse 8, the doorway where Lime makes his first appearance a full hour into the film, when he is supposed to be dead.

But we were a bit lackadaisical about our sightseeing at times, and once made a particularly badly planned trip to Der Wiener Zentralfriedhof, the Central Cemetery, where the film both opens and culminates but where we were unable to find any of the locations. Similarly, we knew that the scenes outside the “Café Mozart” had been filmed elsewhere but never quite worked out where. And where was that wall that showed the giant shadow of the balloon seller?

All this was finally rectified when we picked up a small book at the Dritte Mann Museum called “’Der Dritte Mann’ Drehorte in Wien’” (“’The Third Man’ Locations in Vienna”), and using its excellent maps and photographs the very next day we were back at the cemetery and all the other places we had never managed to find before.

At last, we saw the dark gravestone marked “Ruhestaette der Familie Elchinger” (Resting Place of the Elchinger Family) where they filmed Lime’s fake funeral to escape the law, his eventual exhumation revealing a different body and then his real funeral after the law caught up with him. Also at the cemetery we found all the main memorials in the background of scenes, including the serene white stone lady behind Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee) as he waits in a Jeep, and – definitely most exciting discovery of all – the long alleyway where Lime’s girlfriend Anna (Alida Valli) makes her seemingly endless walk that keeps the audience – and Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) – in suspense right to the very last second of the film.

The “Café Mozart” scene, we discovered, was filmed outside Capucin’s church in Neuer Markt, and then we found the building of the Old Imperial Pharmacy in Michaelerplatz, where the balloon man’s enormous shadow inconveniently appeared, disturbing a stakeout. Take it from us: if you love the film, there’s an excitement to finding these places.

“The Third Man” was in fact the first British feature film to be shot largely on location, and Reed’s three film crews squeezed every scrap of visual value out of devastated and forlorn Vienna, using tilted cameras, night shooting, dramatic lighting and surreal shadows, and hosed-down streets (courtesy Vienna fire brigade) to get the cobblestone sheen he and the cameramen, headed by Australian Robert Krasker, required. It could only have been filmed in atmospheric black-and-white and, of course, it was, winning the Best Cinematography Academy Award for Krasker in 1950.


Call it obsession if you like, but being a “Third Man” enthusiast is a healthy obsession with a great piece of cinematic art. Well, it’s better than collecting strands of barbed wire (people do) or being a football hooligan. And if you think we’re obsessed, then please visit Gerhard Strassgschwandtner’s and Karin Höfler’s wonderful museum.

Anyone who does, unless they’ve stumbled across the museum by accident, must already have a good idea what it’s all about. The story of “The Third Man” goes back to around 1930 when English novelist Graham Greene, author of “The Power and the Glory”, “Our Man in Havana” and “Brighton Rock” among others, wrote an opening paragraph for a book on the flap of an envelope: "I had paid my last farewell to Harry a week ago, when his coffin was lowered into the frozen February ground, so that it was with incredulity that I saw him pass by, without a sign of recognition, among the host of strangers in the Strand."

In 1947, Sir Alexander Korda, the Hungarian-born founder of London Films, asked Greene to write a film for director Carol Reed to follow up their "Fallen Idol", which was based on a Greene short story and starred Ralph Richardson. Greene had nothing more to offer than the paragraph on the envelope. The visionary Korda wanted a film about the four-power, post-war occupation of Vienna, and on the strength of the envelope jotting he was prepared to let Greene pursue the tracks of Harry there, rather than in London’s Strand.

Greene expanded his 46-word paragraph into a novella that was never intended for publication but which would give him the raw material to begin work on a screenplay. Korda gave Greene some money and sent him to Vienna in February 1948 to research and write his film. A second visit followed in June 1948, this time with Reed and Korda accompanying Greene. The location shooting in Vienna started in October 1948 with three separate units and lasted until shortly before Christmas (Reed directed them all, kept going by benzedrine), whereupon filming moved to the UK’s Shepparton Studios.

The finished product, released in September 1949, is a triumph. “The Third Man" brilliantly captured Vienna's forlorn situation after the war and made the city world-famous as a "movie star" itself. in 1999 the British Film Institute surveyed 1000 people from the world of British film and television to produce the BFI 100 list of the greatest British films of the 20th century. The result: number one was “The Third Man”.

Orson Welles, playing black-marketeer Harry Lime whose adulterated penicillin kills or seriously harms, makes perhaps the most famous entrance in the history of cinema – the Schreyvogelgasse doorway – and delivers one of the most memorable speeches – the “cuckoo clock” one. And in one of cinema’s most famous endings, the film culminates as it began, in the cemetery, with Martins leaning on a cart as Anna walks down the long grave-lined alleyway towards him. The audience is made to wait and wait as she makes the seemingly endless walk. Will she stop and accept Martins, or will she ignore him … ?


The Third Man Museum has 13 rooms displaying an astonishing collection of original exhibits and documents including screenplays, cameras used on location in Vienna and the cap of the little boy Hansel (Herbert Halbik), who has a small but memorable role. A highlight is a still-functioning Ernemann 7b projector from 1936 that was used for first screenings of the film in Vienna in 1950. A short clip from the film is played to visitors on the projector.

But pride of place probably goes to the zither on which Anton Karas composed and played the film's haunting musical score. Karas was an unknown performing in wine gardens until Reed heard him and was fascinated by the jangling melancholy of his music. The zither perfectly suited the action on screen and the famous theme tune became a worldwide hit, going to number one in every Western country and changing Karas’ life for ever. The museum has 420 playable cover versions of the "Harry Lime Theme".

Dozens and dozens of items are on display from the film's premieres and numerous rereleases from more than 20 countries including the UK, US, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Mexico and New Zealand. International lobby cards, signed studio promotional photos of the stars, film posters, multinational editions of Greene’s book and magazines with “Third Man” covers create a truly impressive collection.

At the end of the chase through the sewers – again, one of the most famous scenes in the history of film – Lime’s fingers contort through a grate in the street but an exhibit shows how this was only a prop, as the real grates were too thick for a man’s fingers to show. A special exhibition is dedicated to Orson Welles and detailed documentation deals with the historic background to the film and shows original items from the post-war occupation period in Vienna, 1945-1955. Another special exhibition, “The Third Man in Japan”, illustrates how the film has acquired cult-like subtitled status worldwide. Its translated titles include “Il Terzo Uomo”, “El Tercer Hombre”, “Den Tredie Mand”, “Den Tredje Mannen” and “Le Troisieme Homme”.

Gerhard Strassgschwandtner and his wife Karin Höfler describe their private museum, which they created themselves from scratch in 2005, as a place without sponsors and without subsidies but with 100% passion. We offer no argument and strongly recommend a visit. It is a short walk from the popular Vienna Naschmarkt, at Preßgasse 25, 1040 Vienna, open on Saturdays 2-6pm or by arrangement.

Telephone: (+43-1) 5864872

Email: contact@3mpc.net

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