RE: RARA-AVIS: Schulberg

From: Anders Engwall (
Date: 29 Jun 2007

In a sense THE THIRD MAN really is an adaption. I happen to have the book - an old Pan paperback from the fifties - and it contains a preface by Mr. Greene himself. It turns out he was approached to script a movie about occupied Vienna., and all he had at the time was this idea for a story where a man sees in a crowd a friend whose burial he had attended the previous week. He then set about to flesh it out. However, not in the normal way. To quote from the preface:

"To me it is almost impossible to write a film play without first writing a story. Even a film depends on more than plot, on a certain measure of characterization, on mood and atmosphere; and these seem to me almost impossible in to capture for the first time in the dull shorthand of a script. One can reproduce an effect caught in another medium, but one cannot make the first act of creation in script form. One must have the sense of more material than one need to draw on. THE THIRD MAN, therefore, though never intended for publication, had to start as a story before those apparently interminable transformations from one treatment to another."

So, the story actually preceded the script, although it was not published until after the movie came out. And the story itself went through many changes before the script was finished. And as the author himself put it:

"The film, in fact, is better than the story because it is in this case the finished story."

Oh, and the dialogue about Swiss cuckoo clocks was provided by Orson Welles himself.


From: [mailto:] On Behalf Of William Ahearn Sent: den 29 juni 2007 19:03 To: Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Schulberg


--- Juri Nummelin <
<> > wrote:

> (What bothers me all the time is that
> many people
> seem to think that THE THIRD MAN, the film, is a
> version of the
> book. It's also a novelization from Greene's own
> script.

Granted. But it's one of my favorite flicks so I'm doing a piece on The Gun For Hire and working The Third Man and The Comedians into the essay if I can find The Comedians. OK, maybe it's cheating but nobody's keeping score.


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