The Third Man

1949 film directed by Carol Reed

The Third Man is a 1949 UK/US[1] film noir about an American writer of Westerns, who upon his arrival in war-torn Vienna at an old friend's invitation, finds himself investigating the supposed mysterious death of his friend.

You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories.
We should have dug deeper than a grave.
Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?
Directed by Carol Reed. Written by Graham Greene, based on his novella.
HUNTED...By a thousand men! Haunted...By a lovely girl! Taglines

Voice-over intro by Carol Reed

As per the UK version.
  • I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the Black Market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough - mmm - had the money to pay. Of course, a situation like that does tempt amateurs but you know they can't stay the course like a professional. Now the city - it's divided into four zones, you know, each occupied by a power: the American, the British, the Russian and the French. But the center of the city that's international policed by an International Patrol. One member of each of the four powers. Wonderful! What a hope they had! All strangers to the place and none of them could speak the same language. Except a sort of smattering of German. Good fellows on the whole, did their best you know. Vienna doesn't really look any worse than a lot of other European cities. Bombed about a bit. Oh, I was gonna tell you, wait, I was gonna tell you about Holly Martins, an American. Came all the way here to visit a friend of his. The name is Lime, Harry Lime. Now Martins was broke and Lime had offered him, some sort, I don't know, some sort of job. Anyway, there he was, poor chap. Happy as a lark and without a cent.
    • Note: In the American version, Joseph Cotten delivers a slightly different intro as Holly Martins.


Martins: I guess nobody knew Harry like he did, like I did.
Calloway: How long ago?
Martins: Back in school. I was never so lonesome in my life till he showed up.
Calloway: When did you see him last?
Martins: September, '39.
Calloway: When the business started?
Martins: Mmm, hmm.
Calloway: See much of him before that?
Martins: Once in a while. Best friend I ever had.
Calloway: That sounds like a cheap novelette.
Martins: I write cheap novelettes.

Martins: It’s a shame.
Calloway: What?
Martins: Him dying like that.
Calloway: Best thing that ever happened to him.
Martins: What are you trying to say?
Calloway: He was about the worst racketeer that ever made a dirty living in this city.
Martins: Policeman, huh?
Calloway: Come on, have another drink.
Martins: No, I never did like policemen. I have to call them sheriffs. Ever seen one? Pin it on a dead man. Some petty racket with gasoline or something. Just like a cop. You’re a real cop, I suppose.
Calloway: It wasn’t petrol.
Martins: So it wasn’t petrol. So it was tyres or saccharin or… Why don’t you catch a few murderers for a change?
Calloway: Well, you could say that murder was part of his racket.

Crabbin: I know a very good dentist.
Martins: I don’t need a dentist. Somebody hit me, that’s all.
Crabbin: Goodness. We must report that to the police. Were they trying to rob you?
Martins: Oh, just a soldier. I was trying to punch his major in the eye.
Crabbin: No. A major? Were you really?
Martins: Heard of Harry Lime?
Crabbin: Well, I’ve heard of him, of course, but I didn’t exactly know him.
Martins: I was going to stay with him, but he died Thursday.
Crabbin: Goodness, that’s awkward.
Martins: That what you say to people after death? “Goodness, that’s awkward”?

Martins: You were in love with him, weren't you?
Anna: I don't know. How can you know a thing like that afterwards? I don't know anything more except I want to be dead too.

Martins: Could he have been conscious?...Was he still alive?
Porter: Alive? He couldn't have been alive. Not with his head in the way it was.
Martins: I was told that he did not die at once.
Porter: He was quite dead.
Martins: But this sounds crazy. If he was killed at once, how could he have talked about me and this lady here after he was dead? Why didn't you say all this at the inquest?
Porter: It's better not to be mixed up in things like this.
Martins: Things like what?
Porter: [He shrugs] I was not the only one who did not give evidence.
Martins: Who else?
Porter: Three men helped to carry your friend to the statue.
Martins: Kurtz, the Rumanian, and -
Porter: There was a third man. He didn't give evidence.
Martins: You don't mean the doctor?
Porter: No, no, no. He came later, after they carried him to the Josef statue.
Martins: What did this man look like?
Porter: I didn't see his face. He didn't look up. He was quite ordinary. He might have been just anybody.
Martins: Just anybody.

Martins: I suppose it wouldn't interest you to know that Harry Lime was murdered? You're too busy. You haven't even bothered to get the complete evidence...And there was a third man there. I suppose that doesn't sound peculiar to you.
Calloway: I'm not interested in whether a racketeer like Lime was killed by his friends or by an accident. The only important thing is that he's dead. Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane.
Martins: As soon as I get to the bottom of this, I'll get the next plane.
Calloway: Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins. Leave death to the professionals.
Martins: Mind if I use that line in my next Western?

Anna: [about Harry] It's always bad around this time. He used to look in around six. I've been frightened. I've been alone, without friends and money. But I've never known anything like this. Please talk. Tell me about him.
Martins: He could fix anything.
Anna: What sort of things?
Martins: Oh, little things, how to put your temperature up before an exam, the best crib, how to avoid this and that.
Anna: He fixed my papers for me. He heard the Russians were repatriating people like me who came from Czechoslovakia. He knew the right person straight away for forging stamps.
Martins: When he was fourteen, he taught me the three card trick. That was growing up fast.
Anna: He never grew up. The world grew up round him, that's all - and buried him.
Martins: Anna, you'll fall in love again.
Anna: Don't you see I don't want to? I don't ever want to.

Popescu: Can I ask is Mr. Martins engaged in a new book?
Martins: Yes, it's called 'The Third Man.'
Popescu: A novel, Mr. Martins?
Martins: It's a murder story. I've just started it. It's based on fact.
Popescu: Are you a slow writer, Mr. Martins?
Martins: Not when I get interested.
Popescu: I'd say you were doing something pretty dangerous this time.
Martins: Yes?
Popescu: Mixing fact and fiction.
Martins: Should I make it all fact?
Popescu: Why no, Mr. Martins. I'd say stick to fiction, straight fiction.
Martins: I'm too far along with the book, Mr. Popescu.
Popescu: Haven't you ever scrapped a book, Mr. Martins?
Martins: Never.
Popescu: Pity.

Calloway: I told you to go away, Martins. This isn't Santa Fe. I'm not a sheriff and you aren't a cowboy. You've been blundering around with the worst bunch of racketeers in Vienna, your precious Harry's friends, and now you're wanted for murder.
Martins: Put down drunk and disorderly too.
Calloway: I have. What’s the matter with your hand?
Martins: Parrot bit me.
Calloway: Oh, stop behaving like a fool, Martins.
Martins: I’m only a little fool. I’m an amateur at it.
Calloway: You’re a professional. You’ve been shaking your cap and bells all over town.

Calloway: You’re going to hear the facts.
Martins: You haven’t told me a single one yet.
Calloway: Have you ever heard of penicillin?
Martins: Well?
Calloway: In Vienna, there hasn’t been enough penicillin to go around. So a nice trade started here. Stealing penicillin from the military hospitals, diluting it to make it go further and selling it to patients. Do you see what that means?
Martins: Are you too busy chasing a few tubes of penicillin to investigate a murder?
Calloway: These were murders. Men with gangrened legs, women in childbirth. And there were children too. They used some of this diluted penicillin against meningitis. The lucky children died. The unlucky ones went off their heads. You can see them now in the mental ward. That was the racket Harry Lime organized.

Martins: I knew him for twenty years, at least I thought I knew him. Suppose he was laughing at fools like us all the time?
Anna: He liked to laugh.
Martins: Seventy pounds a tube. He wanted me to write for his great medical charity...Perhaps I could have raised the price to eighty pounds for him.
Anna: Oh please, for heaven's sakes, stop making him in your image. Harry was real. He wasn't just your friend and my lover, he was Harry.
Martins: Well, don't preach wisdom to me. You talk about him as if he had occasional bad manners. Oh, I don't know, I'm just a hack writer who drinks too much and falls in love with girls - you.
Anna: Me?
Martins: Don't be such a fool, of course.
Anna: If you'd rung me up and asked me were you fair or dark or had a moustache, I wouldn't have known.
Martins: I am leaving Vienna. I don't care whether Harry was murdered by Kurtz or Popescu or the third man. Whoever killed him, there was some sort of justice. Maybe I would have killed him myself.
Anna: A person doesn't change because you find out more.

Martins: Well, what’s this? Where are we?
Calloway: It’s the main sewer. Runs right into the blue Danube. Smells sweet, doesn’t it? We should have dug deeper than a grave.

Harry: [on the ferris wheel] What do you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn't expect me to give myself up.
Martins: Why not?
Harry: 'It's a far, far better thing that I do.' The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories.

Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Harry: You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. [gestures to people far below] Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays.
Martins: Lot of good your money'll do you in jail.
Harry: That jail's in another zone. There's no proof against me...besides you.
Martins: [holding onto the window ledge] I should be pretty easy to get rid of.
Harry: Pretty easy.
Martins: I wouldn't be too sure.
Harry: I carry a gun. You don't think they'd look for a bullet wound after you hit that ground.

Harry: [chuckling] Oh Holly, what fools we are, talking to each other this way. As though I would do anything to you, or you to me. You're just mixed up about things in general. Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I.
Martins: You used to believe in God.
Harry: Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils. What do you believe in? Oh if you ever get Anna out of this mess, be kind to her. You'll find she's worth it. I wish I had asked you to bring me some of those tablets from home. Holly, I would like to cut you in, old man. There’s nobody left in Vienna I can really trust, and we have always done everything together. When you make up your mind, send me a message. I’ll meet you any place, any time. And when we do meet, old man, it is you I want to see, not the police. Remember that, won’t you? And don’t be so gloomy. After all, it’s not that awful. You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Martins: Anna, don't you recognize a good turn when you see one?
Anna: You have seen Calloway. What are you two doing?
Martins: Well, they, they asked me to help take him. I'm helping.
Anna: Poor Harry.
Martins: Poor Harry? Poor Harry wouldn't even lift a finger to help you.
Anna: Oh, you've got your precious honesty and don't want anything else.
Martins: You still want him.
Anna: I don't want him anymore. I don't want to see him, hear him. But he's still a part of me, that's a fact. I couldn't do a thing to harm him.
Martins: Oh Anna, why do we always have to quarrel?
Anna: If you want to sell your services, I'm not willing to be the price. I loved him. You loved him. What good have we done him? Love! Look at yourself. They have a name for faces like that.

Martins: Calloway, can't you do something about Anna?
Calloway: I'll do what I can - if she'll let me. [They pass Anna on the road]
Martins: Wait a minute. Let me out.
Calloway: Well, there's not much time.
Martins: One can't just leave. Please. [Calloway stops the jeep and Holly gets out]
Calloway: Be sensible, Martins.
Martins: Haven't got a sensible name, Calloway.
[Anna walks past Martins without saying a word]


  • HUNTED...By a thousand men! Haunted...By a lovely girl!
  • Hunted by men...Sought by WOMEN!