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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Evasive Welles' fee ploy exposed
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The Third Man
The film is known for its atmospheric, shadowy suspense
Orson Welles went on the run from film producers in Europe to try to get more money out of them for his role in The Third Man, a new documentary reveals.

Welles was chased from Paris to Rome and back when he was supposed to be filming the classic in Vienna in 1948, according to Shadowing The Third Man.

Producers even hired a magician in Rome to coax him, according to one story.

The Third Man was voted best British movie in 1999. The documentary gets its premiere in London on Friday.

Welles, who died in 1985, played racketeer Harry Lime in the atmospheric thriller set in post-war Vienna.

He bribed the lady on the switchboard to say that Mr Welles was out
Guy Hamilton
The Third Man assistant director
Angela Allen, continuity assistant on the original film, told the behind-the-scenes documentary Welles eluded producers as they tried to track him down.

"They tried to find him in Paris and they got to Paris and he was in Paris," she said.

"The moment [production assistant] Bob Dunbar got to Paris, his little lordship [Welles] had flown to Rome. And they got to Rome, he'd gone back to Paris. He played the games."

The original film's assistant director Guy Hamilton - who went on to direct four James Bond movies - told the documentary: "He bribed the lady on the switchboard to say that Mr Welles was out.

"And then the location manager bribed the switchboard operator to put him through."

Welles eventually arrived in Vienna from Rome about a week late after being hunted by legendary producer Alexander Korda, Shadowing The Third Man director Frederick Baker said.

US actor Joseph Cotten starred as author Holly Martins
US actor Joseph Cotten starred as author Holly Martins
"It was definitely part of his negotiation strategy to get the best deal possible," he told BBC News Online.

"He really wanted to test Korda's limits, so he made life difficult."

Mr Baker said Mr Korda's nephew told him after the documentary was complete that another family member, Vincent, tried to lure Welles out by hiring a magician.

"Orson Welles was an amateur magician himself, and he just loved meeting other magicians," Mr Baker said.

"Vincent brought the best magician in Rome. That was just another way to try and get him."

But Welles' delay may have inadvertently led to some of the movie's most iconic shots, Mr Baker said.

Director Carol Reed experimented with shadows while waiting for Welles, resulting in Harry Lime's famous first scene, where he runs down a street followed by his huge shadow.

But it was not Welles running down the road - it was Mr Hamilton in a big coat and hat, acting as his double.

"The reason he was able to do those shots was because everybody was waiting for Orson," Mr Baker said.

"So Carol Reed actually turned it to his advantage and started playing with the shadows. If Orson had been on time, they might have shot that differently.


"The clothes they put on Guy then determined what Orson's wardrobe was going to be. So Harry Lime's clothes were actually decided by the bloke who was his double and his shadow."

The Third Man also starred US actor Joseph Cotten as author Holly Martins trying to track down Lime, and Brief Encounter star Trevor Howard as a British army major.

Shadowing The Third Man is being screened at the National Film Theatre (NFT) in London on Friday as part of its Crime Scene festival.

It is then expected to be broadcast on digital channel BBC Four to mark the centenary of The Third Man author Graham Greene's birth.

I realised I could shadow the film and tell the story of the making of the film through the film itself
Frederick Baker
Shadowing the Third Man
For the documentary, Mr Baker projected many of the classic movie's scenes directly onto their original Viennese locations in a technique that has been hailed as "revolutionary" by the NFT.

Mr Baker said there were "amazing parallels" between the film's fictional plot and what actually happened when the film was made.

"Orson turned up late, just like his character, he was very difficult, just like his character," Mr Baker said.

"There was a conflict between the Americans and the British, just as there is between Cotton and Trevor Howard.

"So I realised I could shadow the film and tell the story of the making of the film through the film itself. No-one's ever done that."

British film classics: The Third Man
21 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
Greene show opens in Vienna
24 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Third Man tops British film chart
23 Sep 99  |  Entertainment
Welles daughter will sell Oscar
09 Mar 04  |  Entertainment


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