“ONE NEVER knows when the blow may fall.
When I saw Rollo Martins first, I made this note on him for my security police files: “In normal circumstances a cheerful fool. Drinks too much and may cause a little trouble. Whenever a woman passes raises his eyes and makes some comment, but I get the impression that really he’d rather not be bothered. Has never really grown up and perhaps that accounts for the way he worshiped Lime.”
I wrote there that phrase “in normal circumstances” because I met him first at Harry Lime’s funeral. It was February, and the grave-diggers had been forced to use electric drills to open the frozen ground in Vienna’s central cemetery. It was as if even nature were doing its best to reject Lime, but we got him in at last and laid the earth back on him like bricks.
He was vaulted in, and Rollo Martins walked quickly away as though his long gangly legs wanted to break into a run, and the tears of a boy ran down his thirty-five-year-old cheeks. Rollo Martins believed in friendship, and that was why what happened later was a worse shock to him than it would have been to you or me. If only he had come to tell me then, what a lot of trouble would have been saved.”
-Graham Greene, The Third Man
First published in 1949 in the wake of the popularity of Carol Reed and Orson Welles’(star and uncredited co-director) THE THIRD MAN, the eponymous novel/novella was never really intended to exist. The novella was the first draft of Greene’s screenplay for the film. The film is the preferred format, even by Graham Greene. However the film’s extreme popularity spurred interest in the publication of the novel, as well as birthing a very popular score/record,
and a wonderful radio show (starring Orson Welles called THE LIVES OF HARRY LIME, it is brilliant).
But the novel really doesn’t sing by itself. It’s only in the audio-book format, when it’s tightened up a bit, and read by the cultured yet world wearied voice of the great James Mason that it becomes something brilliant and essential, and as haunting as the film.
As someone who considers THE THIRD MAN one of the greatest movies ever made, perhaps my favorite movie of all time, The James Mason read audio book (avoid the Martin Jarvis audio book, it’s just nowhere as good) is without doubt my favorite audio book.
I listen to it in the car and in my home… often.
And there’s something between the words, and the inflection of Mason’s voice that never ceases.. to enthrall.
“Happiness isn’t about getting what we want, it’s about appreciating what we have.”