An Idea was born
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An Idea was Born (Brigitte Timmermann)

My personal love affair with THE THIRD MAN began with little Hansl (“Yes, papa. I saw it. That’s the murderer!”) and the curiosity of an American friend. Could I do him a favour and find out more about the little boy? A name scribbled in pencil on an old film-still put me on his trail. I became curious. Where was the Café Marc Aurel? Into which kiosk did Harry Lime vanish? Where was the balcony scene shot? I set about looking for the countless and not easily identified original locations, for the screenplay was definitely not written in accordance with the map of Vienna, and I began to research in Austrian and English archives, film institutes and libraries. Newspaper articles, reviews, literary critical essays, piles of photographs, and recordings of radio and television interviews recalling those post-war years all contributed to an ever-growing collection. There ensued a lively correspondence with all kinds of very helpful registration officers, archivists and people who simply wanted to share their knowledge with me as well as fascinating conversations with witnesses both from Vienna and abroad. An increasingly multi-faceted picture of THE THIRD MAN and its time emerged. It was great fun talking to Guy Hamilton in his house on Majorca, with Elizabeth Montagu at her family home in Beaulieu, and to discover a British extra living in Melbourne, who was cast as a Russian Officer, because he had a “Slavic chin”. As a student of English literature, I was particularly interested to discover how Graham Greene wove the Vienna which he came to know on his reconnaissance trips into the tapestry of his fiction and to learn about the step-by-step on-site collaboration with the director to transform the original story into a screenplay. As an historian, I was intrigued by the factual history behind the story. As a film buff, I was captivated by Carol Reed’s imaginative photography of Vienna and, as a tour guide, I could appreciate the uniqueness of the locations and the fact that despite the passage of time many have remained virtually unchanged. My growing enthusiasm was shared by others, so a themed tour of Vienna’s Third Man locations was the answer. Despite initial doubts, it became a blockbuster attracting local residents as well as people from abroad, from English-speaking and non-English speaking countries alike. There are the fans of Orson Welles and Harry Lime, and those with Anton Karas’ haunting zither score still in their ears, Allied war veterans who had served in Vienna, historians, film journalists, travel editors, school classes and people who work in film. Is there any other city in the world which can offer such a range of original locations from one single film? As the making of the film had not yet been fully recorded and its Austrian connections and historic implications had not been satisfactorily researched, the only logical consequence was a new book. Where else should it be written but in Vienna – where all the threads came together? In addition, it would be unforgivable not to document the memories of a diminishing number of witnesses. An aspect of history would have been lost for ever – along with a piece of film history. Film institutes and film archives exist to prevent old films from disappearing into oblivion. However, the same cannot always be said about the people who made those films, as the British film author
Charles Drazin (In Search of THE THIRD MAN) once suggested. It is therefore for the lovers of film to leave them a worthy memorial. And a worthy memorial they have deserved.