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Lives of Harry Lime, Volume 3 - 5 hours [Audio CDs] #RA209
5 hours - Audio CD Set
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The Lives of Harry Lime
When recounting the lives of people who never seemed to have realized their full potential, we tend to use the term "what if?" But in the case of Orson Welles, his was a life full of "if only's". If only he hadn't made "Citizen Kane" as his first film and aroused the ire of the powerful and influential newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. If only he hadn't accepted that invitation to travel to South America to make a documentary, leaving his second film, "The Magnificent Ambersons", to be butchered by RKO. If only he had planned better, see further ahead, that ill-fated South American documentary "It's All True" wouldn't have resulted in the death of a national hero - an accident that made him persona non grata in South America and forced his immediate departure and the abandonment of the film. If only he had found a way to ingratiate himself with the movie studios and work more comfortably within their structures, he might well have been able to spend his days making successful movies, rather than scrambling around for the funds to make them independently.
But the "if only's" of Orson Welles' life did have some positives - if only for fans of audio drama. For, if he hadn't had the constant need to raise money for his projects, he would have turned his back completely on radio - a medium at which he truly excelled. If that had been the case, radio enthusiasts then and now would never have had the chance to enjoy "Orson Welles' Almanac", "The Mercury Summer Theater", or
"The Lives of Harry Lime"
The 1949 film "The Third Man" was an international success. Written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed, the production stars Welles' Mercury Theater compatriot Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a writer of pulp westerns, who travels to post-war Vienna at the behest of his old friend Harry Lime, played by Welles. Upon his arrival at Lime's apartment, Martins discovers that Harry has been killed in a traffic accident and, soon after, attends his funeral. But it isn't long before he learns of Harry's true activities in Vienna as a black marketeer - and also begins to suspect that his old friend might not have been killed in that accident after all. A stylish and beautifully made example of post-war film noir, "The Third Man" was praised by critics worldwide for its story, direction, acting, and its distinctive musical score, played on zither by Anton Karas. Welles' appearance in "The Third Man" was something of a tonic for his rather shaky acting career. Though the part itself is not large - Lime appears on screen for only a few minutes in the film - he is the central character and, indeed, the most interesting part of a truly classic film. When Lime does appear on screen, it's highly memorable: a crooked and knowing smile on the face of a figure in a suddenly illuminated doorway, an exchange of information in a deserted amusement park, and a police chase through the catacomb-like sewers of Vienna.
In the late 1940s, following the disastrous box office returns of his now-classic film "The Lady from Shanghai" and the baffled critical response to his low-budget Scottish dialect film version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth", Welles found himself self-exiled in Europe - specifically, in Great Britain. Dodging extensive debt in America and accepting film roles as a way to raise funds for his future projects, Welles became acquainted with Harry Alan Towers, a radio producer whose company, Towers of London, was heavily into syndicated radio production. Towers, a young and increasingly successful impresario, had spent the postwar years creating radio entertainment with an eye toward syndication in British, American, Australian, and Canadian markets. His anthology series "Secrets of Scotland Yard" had proven that there was a lucrative market for high-end entertainment and, in Welles, he saw a personality and a talent that could quickly make his production company one of the leading lights in syndicated features.
Though lately known for his films, Welles had a unique and distinctive talent for radio; he had learned a great deal about dramatic production during his time as "The Shadow" in the 1930s and while creating and starring in "The Mercury Theatre on the Air" and "The Campbell Playhouse" and he brought many of radio's production techniques to his films. Despite its ephemeral nature, the immediacy (and relatively short-term commitments) associated with radio production appealed to Welles - especially since, in the case of prerecorded programs, he could transcribe a lengthy series of radio shows in a fairly short period of time, then take his large check and depart for more hospitable climes. To this end, Welles signed with Towers to appear in a radio series to be titled "The Lives of Harry Lime", based on the character from "The Third Man".
The die was cast and the contracts signed, but one hitch remained: how to revive the character of Harry Lime? In "The Third Man", after cleverly eluding the authorities for almost the entire film, Lime is finally gunned down. The film was popular and widely known, so it simply wouldn't do to suddenly decide that Lime had either risen from the dead or had never been killed at all. So Towers, with Welles' involvement, decided to make "The Lives of Harry Lime" a prequel to "The Third Man". Lime's adventures in the exotic underworlds of Europe would be adventures that had taken place
his fateful time in Vienna,
he had been killed. The show's dramatic opening set the stage:
The familiar "Third Man Theme" is being played by Anton Karas on the zither when, suddenly, a shot rings out and the music abruptly stops.
WELLES: That was the shot that killed Harry Lime. He died in a sewer beneath Vienna, as those of you know who saw the movie "The Third Man". Yes, that was the end of Harry Lime - but it was not the beginning. Harry Lime had many lives - and I can recount all of them. How do I know? Very simple: because my name is Harry Lime.
The issue of Lime's continuing existence thus resolved, the series could proceed.
The character of Harry Lime, at least in the 52 half-hour adventures produced by Towers of London, is a somewhat difficult one to describe - and, at first, he would seem to be someone to avoid at all costs. Lime is a rogue, a scoundrel, and an opportunist - an amoral character whose main interest in life is making money and living well, no matter what underhanded activity is required. A criminal? Yes. A thief? Most certainly. And, of course, a man who is not to be trusted under any circumstances. But, for all of this, Harry Lime is a fascinating character that listeners have always found undeniably attractive - an anti-hero whose life, in some ways, bears a close resemblance to that of Welles himself, who was not above a bit of chicanery or performing a disappearing act to avoid responsibility. Harry is, above all, a survivor - and, to his credit, he has a habit of taking advantage of those who would readily be taking advantage of him if they had the chance. Thanks to witty scripts, expertly performed by Welles and a virtual stock company of talented actors (Diana Foster, Frances Hyland, Suzanne Cloutier, and many others), the underworld activities of Harry Lime and his always-questionable associates make for great entertainment. Additionally, being produced in England (the shows were recorded in London's IBC Studios), "The Lives of Harry Lime" has an authentic continental flavor, with adventures taking place in such exotic locales as Paris, Rome, Venice, Tangiers, and the French Riviera. And in this third volume, featuring ten more shows fully restored by Radio Archives from a series of original 16" transcription recordings, all of the nuances in the programs can be heard in sparkling high fidelity sound - an important consideration for a program chock full of plot details, overlapping conversations, and multi-layered sound patterns.
Listening to the program today, fans of Orson Welles will immediately note his signature on the series. Though he was not contracted to do anything more than appear in the programs, the ever-creative Welles could not resist the opportunity to become extensively involved in their production. If you hear passages of dialogue that remind you of "The Mercury Theatre" or "Citizen Kane", you shouldn't be surprised; Welles frequently participated in the writing of the series, along with head writer Ernest Borneman. (One 1952 program - "The Man of Mystery" - would later evolve into the screenplay for "Mr. Arkadin", a film which Welles would write, co-produce, direct, and star in in 1955.) And if you hear a certain pacing or directorial style creeping in, that shouldn't surprise you either; Welles participated in the direction of many of the shows. In many ways, "The Lives of Harry Lime" is a distillation of all Welles had learned from his years on stage, on radio, and in motion pictures. His magnificent voice, his bravado, as well as his talent for effective radio production, makes the series as much an Orson Welles production as one produced by Harry Alan Towers - and, if you're someone who has enjoyed Welles' radio work in the past, that's definitely a benefit.
In the years following "Harry Lime", Orson Welles would continue to scrabble for the funds necessary to finance his lifestyle and his independent film productions. Much of the money made from his association with Towers of London would go into the budget for "The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice" (1952), a film on which he labored throughout the production of the radio program. The success of "Harry Lime" would lead Harry Alan Towers to star Welles in two additional syndicated radio series: "The Black Museum", narrated by Welles and based on Scotland Yard's famous "museum of crime", and a series of Sherlock Holmes adventures in which John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson would portray Holmes and Watson to Welles' villainous Professor Moriarty. All were successful and widely aired throughout the English-speaking world, ensuring that Welles would remain before the public eye - and ear - throughout much of the 1950s. And if many of Welles' later film productions failed to be funded, completed, or realize their full potential - more of those "if only's" again - we at least have his radio work to enjoy.
And for a man with a voice and a talent made for radio, that's enjoyment indeed.
Broadcast dates are for the first known broadcasts of these programs, which originated over Radio Luxembourg.
#33 Violets, Sweet Violets
Friday, March 14, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#34 Faith, Lime and Charity
Friday, March 21, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#35 Pleasure Before Business
Friday, March 28, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#36 Fool's Gold
Friday, April 4, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#37 Man of Mystery
Friday, April 11, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#38 The Painted Smile
Friday, April 18, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#39 Harry Lime Joins the Circus
Friday, April 25, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#40 Suzie's Cue
Friday, May 2, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#41 Viva La Chance
Friday, May 9, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
#42 The Elusive Vermeer
Friday, May 16, 1952 - 30:00 - Towers of London/Lang-Worth Syndication
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