Who Is the Real Third Man


“He was the Harry Lime
of the literary racket”
—Michael Shelden,
Graham Greene: The
Enemy Within

The world according to Graham Greene—
Is a world full of tragedy and it can’t be
Taken entirely by trusting anybody

Part of the film noir mystery game—
Of reading a Graham Greene novel or
Seeing a film adaptation is following leads

Taking the time to be naïve and letting—
The false leads take one down various
Detours that every detective travels

Holly Martin played by Joseph Cotton—
Is especially vulnerable since he’s a
Pulp fiction writer who lives his fiction

Holly ends up in Vienna at the invitation—
Of his boyhood buddy Harry Slime who he
Venerates and worshipped back in school

At first Holly seems to see postwar Vienna—
And the supposed death of Harry more along
The lines of a naïve “The Oklahoma Kid”

Himself as “The Lone Rider of Santa Fe”—
In a small Western town shoot-em-up kind
Of pulp fiction novel like he writes back home

But Vienna is much more old and decadent—
Much more evil and sophisticated even though
Bombed-out and in ruins than he thinks at first

It’s like a Henry James scenario with the naïve—
Young Americans abroad taking the European tour
And ending up getting had by the Living Dead

The penicillin racket of Harry Lime and Company—
Is just the tip of the tacky rotten evil iceberg tho
But pretty soon Holly wises up fast thanks to events

The endless camera shots of ruined Vienna—
End up revealing how much more evil the wages
Of war can be, taking whole cities into the gutter

No wonder Harry hangs out and ends up dead—
Down there in the twisting, labyrinthine sewers of
Once elegant and cloyingly beautiful great Vienna

The real Third Man is more than just Harry Lime—
The slime-bag of the black market dope racket
That the plot of the novella revolves around

The real Third Man is the refined auteur and—
Catty author Graham Greene himself: the coy
Slime-bag of the literary racket his “sewer”

There’s a reason why “The Third Man” won—
First prize at the Cannes Film Festival and
Enjoyed such success at the movie box office

Greene plays with our film noir imagination—
Seduces us into the mind of Alida Valli who
Loves Harry no matter what he’s done

Greene is the Third Man who sucks us down—
Into the stinking sewers not only of bombed-out
Vienna but even deeper down into ourselves

The Third Man has qualities of being a pulp-fiction—
Naïve hack Western writer like we all are actually
No different than “The Lone Rider of Santa Fe”

The Third Man is a parody of old-fashioned—
Westerns like “The Oklahoma Kid” so cherished
By the fag Herr Kurtz who simply adores it

But it’s all just a fake act to seduce and divert—
Holly Martin off the detective trail of investigating
What really happened to his buddy Harry Slime

The Third Man is a satire on naïve Americans—
The same as Pinky or Rowe in Ministry of Fear
All “The Ugly Americans” taking over the world

Knowing that is to know who the real—
Third Man actually is: it’s us, of course, but
Then film noir’s message is rather tawdry now

When a film genre dies, whether its dark—
Film noir like “The Third Man” or Grande Dame Guignol like “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” 

Another Third Man will soon materialize—
Someone or something that we won’t recognize
Until it’s too late and then it’s Fag Noir, honey

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