“The Third Man”

British director Carol Reed won an Oscar for the 1968 film adaptation of Oliver! But for my money, I think if there’s a film for which he deserved to win it was The Third Man. (Reed did win the 1949 Palm D’Or for this noir classic). Written by Graham Greene, it’s an astounding cold war suspense thriller starring Joseph Cotten as hack American writer Holly Martins who arrives in Vienna to work for his childhood friend Harry Lime. Upon his arrival, he learns that Lime is dead. There’s something suspicious about the whole affair and Martins sets about getting to the bottom of the truth.

To say I love this movie would be an understatement. If I had to pick a favorite, this would probably be it. Reed’s direction is superlative; Robert Krasker won an Oscar for his master class in cinematography. Then there’s the musical score, which is one of the most unusual and most effective scores ever written for a film. Anton Karas (with whom I share a birthday) composed the theme using only the zither. The theme actually became a pop hit and was given a fair amount of radio play in the early 1950s.

This is one of those films that if I stumble upon it on TV, I watch it through to the end. It’s also the only film to make the AFI and BFI 100 movies of all time. If I was forced to pick a favorite film of all time, this would probably be it.