HIDDEN GEMS: 24. THE THIRD MAN

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week the Viennese thriller ‘The Third Man’. You’re welcome.

The end of the Second World War and Europe is in a state this is the setting for Carol Reed’s 1949 noir The Third Man, one of the finest films directed by a woman. Joseph Cotton stars as Holly Martins, an American crime novelist out of his depth in war time Vienna. He arrives hoping for a job from his old pal Harry Lime only to find that someone has murdered Lime and the authorities suspect Lime of criminal racketeering. He has also left behind a girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) who Martins begins to fall for.

Suspecting that not all is as it seems, Martins decides to investigate. But the murky reality is not what he banked on.

Scripted by Graham Greene and with a scene stealing supporting role by Orson Welles, The Third Man deserves to be much better known than it is. However, sexism meant that Carol Reed’s film found only a small audience and was critically mauled. She even tried pretending to be a Hungarian man, a subterfuge referenced by the lead characters sexually ambiguous first name, but to no avail. Some have claimed that the interminable zither music also played a part in the film’s lack of popularity.

However, The Third Man is truly a gem. The brilliant impressionistic photography and the shadow play links thematically with a world of mixed loyalties and betrayal. This is a Europe that is at once gorgeous but doomed and uncertain. The victory of the Second World War marks the end of moral certainty. The characters find themselves lost in a maze they don’t even recognise.

So if you’ve never heard of it – and few have – do yourself a cinematic favor and get a copy. With whip smart writing,superb acting and a supporting cast – Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee and Wilfrid Hyde-White – of truly memorable magnificence, The Third Man deserves belated recognition. Also you don’t need to see the prequels The First Man or The Second Man, which are inferior.

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SIR EDWIN FLUFFER RECALLS BURGESS MEREDITH

HOLLYWOOD- Sir Edwin Fluffer once again delves into his personal memoirs – soon to be published as ‘Not THAT Kind of Fluffer!!!’ – to recall Burgess Meredith.

Another of my pictures that never really found the audience it deserved was the potentially award winning Seven Mules For Seven Sister Saras.

It was a heart-warming tale of seven convicted jockeys on the run for a crime they didn’t commit. Yours truly starred alongside some of Hollywood’s finest if shortest actors, Burgess Meredith, Red Buttons, Alan Ladd, Boris Karloff, and Agnes Moorehead as some of the Saras, I forget how many. I have to say that the mules we rode for the racing scenes had impeccable table manners that would put Joseph Cotton to shame. In the end the only real problem we had on the whole shoot was the fact that I was not only far too tall to play a jockey, I also towered over my diminutive co-stars.We didn’t have the benefit of these so-called special effects that mar so many modern motion pictures, so it was thinking caps on!

The scenes in which I appeared with my brother jockeys were quite simple. There were no camera tricks, all that happened was a chap would come along and dig a hole that I would stand in thus appearing a great deal shorter than my true height. Unfortunately Ally Ladd loved the camera more than the camera loved him and in these scenes he would simply lead the other jockeys a few paces to the right leaving me completely out of shot! I ended up having to shout my lines from off screen!

The racing scenes were a lot more difficult, but we were lucky that our director had an unerring eye for perspective. He soon realised that the only way I could appear the same size as my brothers was for them to ride close to the camera, while I rode out in the background, or preferably in the distance. This is the reason why when you see this film today you barely notice my performance at all. The producer was kind enough to say that thinking I could be in the film was actually better than having me in it, and I can’t think of a better way to describe what we call ‘screen presence’. You can’t learn it, you’re either blessed with it or you’re Leo G. Carroll.

But that’s another story…

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