by Rosalie Lewis
In Salzburg, I got to see many of the places featured or imitated in The Sound of Music—and yes, I did sing “The Hills Are Alive” on top of a mountain, thank you very much. But this is Noirvember, so I’m not here to talk about that right now. I took a train to Vienna for two movies: Before Sunrise and The Third Man. Since I was only there for about 23 hours and mostly on a Sunday, my sightseeing options were limited. Still, I managed to hit some highlights including the famous steps featured in The Third Man as well as the Wiener Reisenrad aka the Ferris wheel in which Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles have a pivotal conversation.
Today, I revisited The Third Man in part to recognize the places I’d been but also because it’s just one of the best movies ever made. I know Citizen Kane gets a lot of love and rightfully so; but personally, I’d rank this higher. I always forget just how little Orson Welles appears in the movie, because Harry Lime’s shadow looms over the entire film. His name is on everyone’s lips and his reputation precedes him—although what kind of reputation depends on if you’re asking his lover, his friend, or the cops. It’s also fun seeing Joseph Cotten playing the straight man rather than the villain—he’s just a penniless Western writer hitching his wagon to a successful pal. He never planned to get mixed up in all this intrigue, but somehow he can’t help himself. Maybe it’s the incredulity that his best friend “accidentally” died the day they were supposed to meet, or maybe it’s the girl his friend left behind—either way, he’s in it now.
Speaking of girls, Alida Valli struck me even more this time than usual. Her emotion feels so raw and genuine, and the way she keeps accidentally calling Holly “Harry” made me smile. I also loved her little cat, who plays an important role in discovering what’s really going on here. (There’s also a very cute dog in this movie, and a savage parrot!)
If you haven’t visited this film in a while – or if you’ve never actually watched at all—give it a whirl this Noirvember. Let it stir something in you as you contemplate the Harry Limes of today.