The Third Man | 1949
Fans of the Carol Reed classic have been visiting the setting of Vienna since the film was released in 1948, giving rise to one of the first and most enduring film location tours. The city, as press releases love to say, is another character in the film.
The movie makes great use of the post-WWII rubble-strewn Austrian capital, though some interiors were reconstructed at Shepperton Studios in London.
The locale is established with a montage of Viennese landmarks, including the golden statue of Johann Strauss Jr in the Stadtpark, carved figures on the roof of the Parliament Building, the monument to Ludwig van Beethoven, Beethovenplatz on Lothringerstrasse opposite the Wiener Konzerthaus.
Reed himself provides the gushing narrative as naive American writer of pulp Westerns Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives by train at Westbahnhof on the promise of a job from his friend, the shady Harry Lime (Orson Welles).
Westbahnhof, from which he later goes to watch Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) leave, was the city’s major rail terminus (its more modern incarnation bookends Richard Linklater's 1995 romance, Before Sunrise, with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) until Wien Mitte was opened in 2015.
Martins' immediate destination is Harry Lime’s living quarters, supposedly at ‘15 Stiftgasse’.
The apartment block with the statuesque entrance looks positively palatial and indeed it is. It’s Palais Pallavicini, Josefsplatz 5, a stone's throw from the royal Hofburg Palace.
Dating from 1784, the palace was built for the Fries banking family until passed on to the aristocratic Italian Pallavicinis.
They still own it and, if you’re not too strapped for cash, you can hire its Baroque splendour for that special function.
From the porter here, Martins learns he’s arrived ten minutes late for his pal’s funeral. Harry Lime, it seems, died after being hit by a truck outside the apartment on Josefsplatz. It’s at the foot of the equestrian statue of Emperor Josef II that the dying – or dead – Lime was laid by his friends ‘Baron’ Kurtz and Popescu.
Martins begins to suspect something fishy in the conflicting details of Lime's death. After the accident There are hints that a mysterious 'third man' was also present at the scene of the accident.
Lime is – apparently – being buried with the great and the good in Vienna’s Zentral-Friedhof, the Central Cemetery, Simmeringen Hauptstrasse in District 11.
A deleted shot, intended to establish the locale, panned across the memorials of celeb internees Brahms and Beethoven. Music lovers can pay homage also at the graves of Schubert, the Strausses, Schoenberg and the much-maligned Antonio Salieri – supposed murderer of Mozart in Peter Shaffer's fanciful Amadeus.
The Zentral-Friedhof is also last resting place of György Ligeti (the avant-garde composer whose atonal music was made famous by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey), actors Curd Jürgens and Werner Krauss (the doctor in German Expressionist classic The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari), and pioneering film director GW Pabst.
The cemetery is vast but fortunately it's divided into small numbered sections and there are landmarks to help orient you – including the green dome of the central Charles Borromeo Church and the nearby Soviet Monument for the soldiers of the Red Army who died in the battle of Vienna in 1945.
Martins is seen arriving at the cemetery on one of the main avenues which runs southeast from Section 59E to Section 64. This is the section used again at the end of the film.
Lime's interment takes place in Section 43A, just southwest of the church – you can clearly see its dome in the background of the shot.
To find the spot, look for the northern section of the Soviet Memorial. Directly opposite, a narrow grassy path leads between the graves of Section 43A. If you follow this for about eight or nine rows, you’ll come to the tall black monument of the Elchinger family.
It’s alongside this plot that Harry Lime’s funeral takes place in what is actually the gap accommodating this path. (I'm informed that, as of September 2018, the distinctive Elchinger family memorial has collapsed, so here's hoping the cemetery authorities are working to restore it!).
You can probably tell by the flat lighting in some brief shots that a section of the cemetery was recreated back in the studio.
English intelligence officer Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) offers Martins a lift back into the city as he stands alongside the elaborate monument to Heinrich von Hess, a veteran Field Marshall in the Austrian army, which you can see almost opposite the A-lister composers section where Beethoven and his ilk are buried.
Calloway arranges for Martins to stay at the venerable Hotel Hotel Sacher Wien, Philharmonikerstrasse 4, behind the Opera House. At today’s top-of-the-range rates, that’s a pretty generous offer. The hotel’s entrance has naturally changed a little over the years – you can see its present look in Simon Curtis's 2015 drama Woman In Gold, starring Helen Mirren.
Lime’s sinisterly camp friend Kurtz arranges to meet Martins at another Viennese institution, the Cafe Mozart. The terrace café at which Kurtz arrives brandishing a copy of Martins’ Oklahoma Kid isn’t that of Cafe Mozart. This scene was staged a couple of blocks north in Neuer Markt at Tegetthofstrasse.
You’ll probably want to visit the real café anyway: Cafe Mozart, Albertinaplatz 2, opposite the terrace of the Albertina.
From Kurtz, Martins learns the identity of the woman he saw at the funeral, and immediately goes to visit actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) who’s appearing in a romantic comedy at the Theater In Der Josefstadt.
You can still see a performance at the Josefstadt Theatre, Josefstädter Strasse 26, once run by theatrical legend Max Reinhardt whose carved likeness graces its façade (and who went on to direct the star-studded version of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Hollywood in 1935) along with that of writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Learning from Anna that the circumstances of Lime’s death were even more suspicious, Martins walks her back from the theatre to her apartment on the western side of Am Hof. The elegant block has been demolished to make was for an office block of eye-numbing blandness (Am Hof 6), but you can still recognise the Berufsfeuerwehr Wien (Central Fire Station) in the background.
Martins traces the evasive Romanian Mr Popescu, the second witness to Lime’s accident, to the Casanova Club, Dorotheergasse 6. Although the club interior is a studio set, the Casanova Revuebuhne Bar is real and – amazingly – still in business, now offering drinks and entertainment under the bizarre name Blue Mustard.
Aware that Martins is getting close to the truth, Kurtz, Popescu and Lime’s physician Dr Winkel arrange a meeting with one more mysterious person.
Dr Winkel is seen carrying a pushbike from his home at Borsegasse 5, between Renngasse and Tiefer Graben. The Church of Maria am Gestade which you can see in the background (now partly obscured by trees) features prominently twice more in the film.
The conspirators meet up on the Reichsbrücke, crossing the River Danube northeast of the Prater amusement park, but this is not the bridge you’ll find today. A sleek, modern structure has replaced this original suspension bridge, which collapsed in the 1970s.
Returning to Lime’s apartment on Josefsplatz, Martins is shocked to discover that the porter who was about to reveal important information, has been murdered.
Coming under suspicion himself Martins, accompanied by Anna, flees a pursuing mob down the steps of Ruprechtskirche (St Rupert’s Church) on Ruprechtsplatz down to Schwedenplatz, a way to the northeast near the Donaukanal.
The pair find shelter in the old Heimat-Kino cinema, Porzellangasse 19, cinema, which lives on today as Schauspielhaus Wien, a live theatre.
The atmosphere of mounting paranoia cranks up as a car arrives and briskly whisks Martins off through the city streets.
The destination turns out to be nothing more sinister than the ‘British Cultural Centre’, where Martins remembers he’d reluctantly promised daffy Mr Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White) to entertain ex-pat Brits with a lecture on the contemporary novel.
The ‘Centre’ is the entrance to Salesianerinnenkirche (Salesian Church), Rennweg 10, near the entrance to the Schloss Belvedere.
Sinister forces turn up obliging Martins once again to flee through the benighted ruins of the city, eventually hurrying down the wide flight of steps in front of the imposing Church of Maria am Gestade, Salvatorgasse 12 – which was just glimpsed as Dr Winkel left his house for the appointment on the bridge. This famous Gothic church is the one visited by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise.
Having escaped, Martin’s goes to see Calloway and is finally convinced of his friend’s pernicious penicillin racket. Disillusioned, Martins gets drunk and visits Anna to make his farewells to Vienna.
Although Anna’s place was shown to stand on the western side of Am Hof, the window of her apartment clearly looks out onto Molker Bastei, the last remnant of Vienna’s old city wall, several blocks west.
There’s multiple trickery going on here.
Once Martins leaves Anna and begins to taunt the incompetent flatfoot he believes to be following him, he is on Molker Steig, the narrow, cobbled lane running atop what remains of the city wall.
An hour into the film, Harry Lime makes his long-awaited entrance, a cat nibbling the laces of his shoes (which had temptingly been coated with pilchard) in the ornate doorway at 8 Schreyvogelgasse – actually on Molker Steig. As of August 2017, the house was undergoing extensive renovation which I understand has now been completed.
The lovers in Before Sunrise stroll along Molker Steig past this doorway unaware, and the same picturesque spot is used for the carriage ride to Freud’s office in David Cronenberg’s 2011 A Dangerous Method.
The reverse shot of Martins’ astonished reaction is filmed in front of the sculptural group on Salvatorgasse at the foot of the steps leading up to – yes – the Church of Maria am Gestade again (presumably to give dramatic emphasis to the important shot).
The unpredictable Orson Welles proved to be almost as elusive as Lime himself, and wasn’t always available for filming. As the sly racketeer scoots off into the night, the shadow on the wall is actually that of assistant director Guy Hamilton, who went on to helm several Bond movies, including Goldfinger and The Man With The Golden Gun.
Martins chases Lime along Schulhof, now delightfully beautified by a row of recycling bins, beneath the arch into the vast cobbled square. Lime seems to disappear into thin air.
This open plaza is Am Hof, where it was earlier established that Anna lived. The fancy, cherub-topped fountain at the junction of Schulhof and Am Hof was no more than a cinematic prop, as was the oddly tall kiosk, which appears to be the only feature in the centre of the square.
Director Reed wanted a clear, empty space to highlight Lime’s sudden disappearance. This kiosk is strategically placed to mask the Mariensäule (Mary's Column) which has dominate the square since 1667, as well as providing a cover for the (non-existent) sewer entrance.
A larger distraction would be needed today with the Wiener Lustspielhaus (mobile theatre) currently occupying most of Am Hof’s southern section.
Discovery of the forged passport provided by Harry Lime results in Anna's arrest by the International Polizei. The magnificent staircase of the police HQ, where Martins manages to let her know that Lime is still alive, is the grand Vestibule of the Palais Auersperg, Auerspergstraße 1.
Originally, and romantically, called Palais Rosenkavalier, Auersperg was built in 1710 as a family home which also hosted musical events (Mozart conducted his opera Idomeneo here) and has been remodelled several times over the years. Damaged in WWII (its ballroom was entirely destroyed), the building is still being renovated and regularly hosts music evenings. More recently, it provided the opulent interior of the Bloch-Bauer apartment in Woman In Gold.
Convinced he’s seen his old friend alive, Martins heads off to the house shared by Kurtz and Dr Winkel. They’re not perhaps the most positive depiction of a gay couple on screen, but this was certainly a breakthrough for 1948.
This house isn’t the property seen when Winkel leaves with his bike for the meeting on the bridge, but is Morinplatz 3, only a short distance from Ruprechtskirche.
The wildly elaborate façade, which managed to survive WWII, has been unforgivably stripped back to bland anonymity, either for being perceived as unfashionable or because of the upkeep needed to prevent those stone carvings from crashing down on the heads of unwary movie location fans.
The house is supposed to be directly opposite the vast Wiener Prater amusement park and the ferris wheel, where Martins says he’ll meet Lime.
Of course, it’s nowhere near.
I try to avoid the overused cliche ‘iconic’ but in this case the word seems justified – the wheel is an icon of both Vienna and of The Third Man.
The Wiener Riesenrad, the Grand Ferris Wheel, erected in 1896 and restored in 1948 after war damage, still stands in the Prater in District 2, between the Danube and the Danube Canal. Following the success of the London Eye, every major European city now seems to boast a huge ferris wheel, but none has the history and charm of this great original.
From here, Lime looks down and asks chillingly "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?".
It's good to see that, almost 70 years after the film's release, the image of Harry Lime still adorns the entrance to the attraction. The park and the wheel are featured in 1987 Bond movie The Living Daylights and – again – in Before Sunrise.
Finally convinced of Lime’s villainy, Martins colludes with Calloway's trap, set at Hoher Markt, the oldest square in Vienna, with its elaborate 17th-century Vermählungsbrunnen (Wedding Fountain). The fountain depicts the marriage of Mary and Joseph, a pretty unusual subject in art, and consists of four basins surrounding the statues of Mary, Joseph, the High Priest and various assorted angels.
At the time of filming, the square was largely in ruins, surrounded by mountains of rubble, atop which Lime is glimpsed. Modern blocks have since sprouted up but the fountain and a few other recognisable locations remain.
Among them is the ‘Café Marc Aurel’, named for the nearby Marc-Aurel-Strasse, in which Martins waits. It’s undergone several changes of use over the years but, as of August 2017, it’s once again a café, Midi, Hoher Markt 5.
Soldiers are posted among the angels of the Wedding Fountain and in its shadows Calloway and Sergeant Payne (Bernard Lee) secrete themselves.
As tension builds, there’s a little moment of misdirection when the looming shadow which puts everyone on alert turns out to be that of a harmless old balloon seller.
Obviously meant to be Hoher Markt and looking convincingly like a corner of the square, the wall with the shadow is the northern side of the Stallburg (which today houses the famous Spanish Riding School) on Habsburgergasse at Michaelerplatz, only a few yards north of Josefsplatz and Lime’s Pallavicini apartment.
The elaborate statue in the foreground isn’t the Wedding Fountain, but part of the monumental entrance to the Hofburg Palace.
Alerted to the trap, Lime takes off for his accustomed escape route – the city sewers, via the dramatic steps running down from Ruprechtskirche again.
As in most cities, Vienna's entrances are small, unremarkable manholes but there are six elaborate ‘star’ entrances which open up into sections like traditional stage ‘traps’. It’s into one of these, now inevitably dubbed the ‘Hollywood entrance’, that Harry Lime disappears. You’ll find this in the small western section of Karlsplatz, on Operngasse (you can still recognise the buildings in the background of the scene).
Most of the sewer filming, apart from a few shots which use a stage set back at the London studio, was confined to the accessible area in and around the sewer's Overflow Chamber beneath Karlsplatz, that's the gushing 'waterfall' across which Lime runs.
The dramatically-lit tunnels are not technically the sewer but the underground course of the Vienna River, diverted beneath the city like the 'lost' rivers of London.
You can take guided Third Man walking tours of the city, including a fascinating one-hour trip down into the sewers, from this very spot.
Lime’s criminal career is cut short by a gunshot beneath the streets and there’s a rerun of the funeral as the real Harry Lime is laid to rest in Zentral-Friedhof.
Calloway offers Martins a ride alongside the striking white Jugendstil angel on the Avenue on which he was first seen.
The ending must be one of the few occasions in film history in which the director and the studio imposed a downbeat ending against the wishes of the writer, who intended a final reconciliation between Martins and Anna.
Anna walks impassively along this Avenue (you can see the Soviet Memorial column in the distance, although the direction changes in certain shots) in the unforgettable two-minute final shot.
The film was not wildly successful in the country in which it was filmed; it covers a period history still painful for many Austrians. Nevertheless, there are plenty of options for overseas tourists.
There is naturally the Third Man walking tour of the city, which also offers the separate Sewer Tour (3.30 on Thursdays is the English-speaking tour).
The Third Man Museum, Preßgasse 25, 1040 Wien displays memorabilia from the film (tel: +43.1.5864872)
And to refresh your memory on the the big screen, Burg Kino, Opernring 19, shows the film at least three times a week.
As a bit of extra trivia, there are several James Bond connections: two future directors of Bond films worked on the production – Guy Hamilton (Assistant Director) and John Glen (Assistant Sound Editor); two Ms appear in the cast, Bernard Lee and Robert Brown, along with Geoffrey Keen who was Minster of Defence three times to Brown’s M; and of course, the Prater park itself is a location in The Living Daylights.
Many thanks to Tina for updates to this section.