Of cats, criminals, and cuckoo clocks

Saturday night, my local PBS station showed one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Third Man." It's a spectacular film set in post-WW2 Vienna.  Joseph Cotten plays an alcoholic American novelist named Holly Martin.  He's called to Vienna by his old college friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles).  When he gets there, he finds that Harry's been killed.  At the funeral, he meets Harry's old girlfriend, Anna (Alida Valli), and he attempts to woo her while figuring out who killed his friend.  She has a cat named Katze (Ana-Sofia Vargas*), who she says hates everyone except for Harry.  One drunken, frustrating night, Holly leaves Anna's apartment, only to find he's being spied on, by a spy the cat has found.  Herewith, the greatest entrance in cinematic history (imho):

The Third Man (1949), Sir Carol Reed

Later, Holly meets his old friend, and their first chat yields another cinematic high point, which Orson Welles wrote himself:

This is just the last bit of the whole scene, but it has the most famous dialog in the film. 

If you've never seen "The Third Man," do so.  The actors are all amazing–especially Orson Welles–but strangely, post-war Vienna is as much a character as any human.  There's beauty alongside bombed out ruins, "normal" people living normal lives amongst a swirling cast of rogues and scum.  Graham Greene wrote the screenplay, one of his best.  Strange that the best line wasn't one of his. 

If you'd like to see more about the "Cuckoo Clock" scene, and a fictionalized version of how Welles came up with it, check out Vincent d'Onofrio's short film, Five Minutes Mr Welles.  The entire 31 minute film is available on You Tube.  It's highly cool, I must say.

*-In a great travesty, the credits for "The Third Man" omit the cat's real, effanineffable deep and inscrutable singular name.  I simply substituted the name of the nearest dramatic cat I could find.

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3 Responses to “Of cats, criminals, and cuckoo clocks”

  1. I will have to see this.

  2. Touch of Evil is my favorite Orson Welles flick, but this one is superb. Bravo.

  3. I haven't seen Touch of Evil in years, so I just rented it. Thanks for the reminder. I loved him in The Stranger, with Edward G Robinson. He was a teacher at a boys school, and he was obsessed with clocks. Blah-cubed, Nazi, dead dog, you remember. lol Check out that Vincent D'Onofrio short on You Tube. I really liked it. His accent was kind of titschy, but I think he nailed the 'tude and the mannerisms.

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