Interlude #4: "The Harry Lime Theme"

Who wouldn't know the "The Harry Lime Theme" or also known as "The Third Man Theme"? If you are one of those that don't know what that is then let me enlighten you some info on it. The Harry Lime theme or The Third Man Theme was created as an instrumental for the soundtrack to the film The Third Man in year 1949. It was written and performed by the talented Viennese zither player and composer Anton Karas.

The brief history on how the wonderful instrumental piece have been created is stated below.

I feel very proud to annonce that now the Viennese Legends have their own intro for FlashCast.

Jessica May, audio producer of the FlashPulp Crew, did a fantastic job and underlaid the words "Curious Tales of Vienna" with a short sequence of "The Third Man Theme" that let me feel very special.

Anyway suddenly I had the background story of this theme on my mind. I did a bit of research to complete my knowledge and so I can tell you know the following:

The Harry Lime Theme

It was in October 1948 during the shooting for "The Third Man" in Vienna when Director Carol Reed met Anton Karas the first time. Carol Reed was still searching for an adequate sound for the film. It should evoke the Viennese atmosphere but it shouldn't be a waltz.

That time Anton Karas earned his living with playing the zither at a Heuriger (some kind of wine bar typical for Vienna and the east of Austria) in the 19th district of Vienna.

It is not known where they actually met each other the first time but I think it's quite obvious that it was at the Heuriger where Karas played his zither. Some sources also confirm that.

It is said that Carol Reed was fascinated by the sound of the zither and the performances of Anton Karas.

Composing of the film music
"Slightly before the end of the shooting Carol Reed invited Anton Karas to the Hotel Astoria in Vienna and Karas was asked to play for the film crew hours and hours. Back to London Reed experimented with different pieces for a film music but nothing was satisfying and therefore he invited Anton Karas to London. Karas started composing the complete film music on June 1st, 1949, the recording was finished within 12 weeks. Karas composed and improved about 14 hours per day. Unfortunately he felt extremely homesick and was more than one time to go back to Vienna without finishing his work. But Reed didn't "surrender" and assisted him and kept him in London like a prisoner. When he finished recording the film music, a fire in the cutting room destroyed more than the half of the completed film material including the sound column. Anton Karas had to record the complete sound column once again. When the film was completed just one week before the scheduled premiere, Carol Reed and Anton Karas went to the Westminster Abbey to light thankful a candle!" source:

"This song was originally released in the U.K. in 1949, where it was 'The Harry Lime Theme.' Following its release in the U.S. in 1950 (see 1950 in music), "The Third Man Theme" spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard's U.S. Best Sellers in Stores chart, from April 29 to July 8. Its success led to a trend in releasing film theme music as singles." source: wikipedia

"The Harry Lime Theme" was the first #1 in the USA for an Austrian.


I would like to thank the guitar teachers at "Electric Guitar Lessons Zurich" for bringing Mr Karas to my attention.  Until now, this was a shockingly absent part of my education in musical history and one that I have now put right.  So thanks Hank - I can't believe I didn't know that already.

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