Carol Reed Sir Carol Reed b. December 30, 1906, Putney, London, England d. April 25, 1976, London, England filmography bibliography web resources Born December 30, 1906 in London, British director Sir Carol Reed was the second son of the actor Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and his mistress May Pinney. Following a public school education, Reed made his theatrical debut in 1924. He joined Edgar Wallace's troupe and acted in several plays, later overseeing film adaptations of Wallace's plays by Basil Dean's Associated Talking Pictures. (1) Between 1932 and 1934, Reed worked for Associated Talking Pictures, first as a dialogue director, then later as a second-unit director and an assistant director. (2) With Robert Wyler, he co-directed It Happened in Paris (1935), a comedy based on a French play. Reed's directorial debut came with Midshipman Easy (1935), a historical romance that marked his first foray into novel-to-film adaptations. He began his directing career as the British film industry blossomed under producers Sir Alexander Korda, Basil Dean, J. Arthur Rank and Edward Black. Reed's first successes, Midshipman Easy (1935) and Laburnum Grove (1936), were produced by Basil Dean and scripted by Anthony Kimmins from popular novels, respectively, Marryat's Mr. Midshipman Easy and J.P. Priestley's Laburnum Grove. Reed collaborated with Anthony Kimmins on the story and the screenplay for Talk of the Devil (1937). Kimmins scripted four of Reed's first five films, bringing his own directing expertise to Reed's productions. Collaboration marks Reed's most successful films as he himself claimed. (3) He worked not only with the same writers (Kimmins, Eric Ambler, Graham Greene) but often with the same art directors (Victor Korda, Vetchinsky), cinematographer (Robert Krasker) and editor (R.E. Dearing). Reed served as his own producer during the 1940s and 1950s, only relinquishing control after the flop, The Agony and the Ecstasy, in 1965. The British film industry served up a steady diet of literary adaptations during the 1930s and 1940s, particularly during the post-war World War II era. F.L. Green's Odd Man Out provided Reed with a hit in 1946. Graham Greene scripted two hits for Reed during this period, The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949). Of Reed's 31 films, fifteen were based on novels, four based on plays, and three on stories. Reed himself earned writing credit for one film, Talk of the Devil, and added much to Graham Greene's original story idea for The Third Man. Less successful adaptations include Outcasts of the Islands (1952), A Kid for Two Farthings (1955), Trapeze (1956) and The Agony and the Ecstasy .


Odd Man Out Reed's first successes were followed by the uneven comedies, Who's Your Lady Friend (1937), Penny Paradise (1938) and A Girl Must Live (1939). Reed's 1938 Bank Holiday has more in common with Edmund Goulding's Grand Hotel (1932) than with Reed's other films. (4) Shot on location, Bank Holiday follows the doings of various working-class Londoners as they enjoy a weekend at the seaside resort, The Grand. Bank Holiday, with its episodic nature, irony, sociological subplots, and contrasting characters (young lovers, a family, single woman, retired man), established a British film staple. (5) Robert Moss regards this film as remarkable for its atmosphere, created by long shots of the seaside resort, quick cuts and juxtaposition. (6) Throughout the 1940s Reed used these techniques skillfully to produce both dark thrillers and riveting documentaries. Reed remained in Britain during World War II, joining the British film unit of the War Office. (7) He scored both critically and popularly with The Stars Look Down (1940) and Night Train to Munich (1941). Stars was the second Cronin novel that Reed brought to the screen. This coal-mining tale, replete with class struggle, treachery and a love triangle, gave Reed a chance to employ a documentary look and feel in a big-budget feature film. (8) Night Train, scripted by the same authors as Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), tested Reed's skill at controlling melodrama with comedic episodes and speeding the action along with wit. These films were followed by a biographical fiction, Kipps (1941), based on an H. G. Wells novel, and The Young Mr. Pitt (1942), staring Robert Donat. Reed became known for films of great style, strange shadows and allegorical locations involving single individuals facing a bewildering world. Both films present men surmounting odds. Kipps raises himself from a draper's life after receiving a legacy. Mr. Pitt distinguishes himself as Prime Minister against great odds, including his own youth. Pitt also offered British audience heroics and political parallels between the Napoleonic era and contemporary Britain. Reed's wartime effort, The New Lot (1942, later released publicly as The Way Ahead [1944]) took the documentary style to new heights, “sparing no sentiment at the end as the entire squad goes into battle and death.” (9) An Anglo-American film, The True Glory (1945), compiled by Reed and American playwright, Garson Kanin, from ten million feet of film (10) of the invasion of Europe from D-Day to the war's end, added to Reed's reputation of superbly edited features. (11) The Third Man The post-war period brought Reed international acclaim for three films whose subject matter displayed the dilemmas of orphans and outcasts. Reed won the British film of the year (awarded by the British Film Academy, now known as BAFTA) three times for Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949). Like his compatriot Alfred Hitchcock, Reed turned popular fiction into smart thrillers. Reed adds twists to this plot structure, including bleak settings, post-war angst, and ruined aristocrats. In Reed's films, the innocent are more naive than noble, the real villains are smarter and more charming than the hero, and the hero commits the very act he has been trying to prevent. In Odd Man Out, the wounded Irish gangster is killed as his girlfriend attempts to rescue him. In The Fallen Idol, a lonely ambassador's son almost causes his beloved servant, Baines, to be arrest for the murder of Baines' wife based on the lies a child tells in an attempt to save the man. In The Third Man, the lonely, displaced and foolish Holly Martin (Joseph Cotten) kills the very man he seeks, his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), after a pursuit through the Viennese sewers. George Perry describes the basic Hitchcockian plot as “the double chase, with innocent hero, searching for the real villain, pursued by the law.” (12) But other plot complications and daring camerawork stamped the film as Reed's masterpiece.

The Third Man

Carol Reed won the Cannes Film Grand Prix in 1949 for this 104 minute black and white film noir. The Third Man stunned audiences with its raw vision of the bombed out Vienna, its mysterious main character, Harry Lime, Lime's loyal lover, Anna (Alida Valli), his foolish American friend, Holly, the post-war powersharing by the allies, and the desperate chase in Vienna's cavernous sewers. Often criticized for its melodrama and cynicism, Graham Greene's story can be described as:

Vienna is seen by day and night as Holly, an American pulp writer searches for clues to the death of his friend, Harry Lime. He [Holly] is unable to find the third witness to the death, and eventually learns that the third man was Lime - who had another man killed in his place, and is alive and flourishing as a black marketeer. After many twists of plot, Holly kills Lime. (13)

Yet the film's eerie Dutch tilts camera work produced the necessary tension and irony of the tale, as it had in Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). (14) The daylight scenes are as dark as the nighttime scenes. Only the visit to Harry Lime's opulent apartment has an unshadowed feel, though the severely angled shots through the apartment's doors reinforce the landlord's anxiety about Holly's and Anna's visit there. Adding to the film's disquietude are those scenes in which the German dialogue (Lime's landlord, the landlord's son, and Anna's landlady) is left untranslated. As in a silent film, gesture (child pointing, landlady clutching her shawl) substitutes inadequately, leaving the protagonist and the audience helpless, confused, threatened and disbelieving, unable to trust anyone. Haunting, gritty zither music, originally recorded underneath a table in Reed's hotel room in Vienna, (15) adds to the uneasiness of every scene. Surprised bits of humor (Anna's cat's rejection of Martin, a balloon seller upsetting a stakeout) draw the audience into the action and speed the film to its grim conclusion. The Third Man Carol Reed filmed The Third Man's sewer chase scenes in both Vienna, with the assistant director sometimes doubling for Welles, and in London, on the Shepperton lot, Welles attempting to double for Reed, giving Robert Krasker shooting directions and running one sequence numerous times. (16) Four different cameramen shot scenes in the town and in the sewers, morning, noon and night, under the influence of Benzedrine. (17) Reportedly, Carol Reed did not use any of the footage directed by Welles, (18) and presumably that footage was carefully and subsequently lost. Reed worked with cinematographer Robert Krasker, author Graham Greene and Sir Alexander Korda to produce this signature work. In turn, The Third Man radiated success on all its participants, due to its unique atmosphere, music, cast, camerawork, and unhappy ending. Krasker won an Academy award for his work on the film. The zither player, Anton Karas, was nominated for an academy award. His composition for the film became a hit record and brought him fame and fortune. Greene issued the story as a book. Later, in 1951, Orson Welles wrote and performed episodes of a radio series, The Lives of Harry Lime, playing upon the success of The Third Man and feeding the myth of his importance to the film's success. (19) Though Orson Welles starred in less than half of the film, he has often received credit for its style, its chase scenes (completed on specially built stages in England), and the eerie, politically-cynical dialogue as he and Joseph Cotton face each other inside the Ferris wheel.

Political hot potato

American audiences saw a significantly shorter film (93 minutes), recut by producer David O. Selznick in response to a 1949 New Rochelle preview (20) and his personal concerns. Selznick feared three things: one, American audiences would not accept a weak, easily duped American, played by Joseph Cotten; two, that censors would never accept nudity, violence on screen (“law-enforcing officers dying at the hands of criminals”) (21) and drunkenness of the hero (Cotten); and three, that Americans might find Lime's dialogue more like Communist propaganda:

Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Government's don't, so why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs. It's the same thing. They have their five year plans and so have I. (22)

Though Selznick did not cut this speech nor Welles' “cuckoo clock” speech, he did radically alter the opening narrative delivered by Reed, rewriting the speech to highlight Cotten's role as narrator and hero of the story.

Anyway, I was dead broke when I got to Vienna. A close pal of mine had wired me offering me a job doing publicity work for some king of charity he was running. I'm a writer, name's Martins, Holly Martins. Anyway down I came all the way to old Vienna happy as a lark and without a dime. (23)

Other changes, including radical edits of the railway cafe conversation between Holly and Anna, resulted in continuity problems about which Selznick remained unconcerned. The Third Man also generated imitations, one by Reed himself, The Man Between (1953), shot this time in post-war Berlin.


Reed made masterpieces, successes, and flops during his career (1935-1971). Though Carol Reed would hardly be labeled a political theorist, his films Odd Man Out, Fallen Idol, The Third Man, Outcasts of the Island, The Man Between and Our Man in Havana (1959), all contained questionable lead characters making selfish choices for political ends. Reed won the Grand Prix at Cannes for The Third Man in 1949 and, much later, two Academy awards (Best Picture and Best Director) for Oliver! (1968). The Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián honored Reed with a retrospective in 2000. Reed was knighted in 1952 for his considerable contributions to British filmmaking. His last two films, The Last Warrior (1970) and Follow Me (1971), made for American studios, did not add to Reed's reputation. Reed died April 25, 1976, and was survived by his second wife, Penelope Dudley Ward, and their son Max and his step-daughter Tracy Pelissier. Carol Reed


(24) It Happened in Paris (Associated Talking Pictures, 1935) Producer: Bray Wyndham Co-director: Robert Wyler Screenplay: John Houston and H.F. Maltby, from Yves Mirande's play L'Arpete Midshipman Easy (Associated Talking Pictures, 1935) U.S. title: Men of the Sea Producer: Basil Dean, Thorold Dickinson Screenplay: Anthony Kimmins, from Captain Frederick Marryat's novel, Mr. Midshipman Easy Cinematographer: John W. Boyle Editor: Sidney Cole Laburnum Grove (Associated Talking Pictures, 1936) Producer: Basil Dean Screenplay: Anthony Kimmins, from J.P. Priestley's novel, Laburnum Grove Cinematographer: John W. Boyle Art Director: Edward Carrick, Denis Wreford Music: Ernest Irving Editor: Jack Kitchin Talk of the Devil (British & Dominions, 1936) Producer: Jack Raymond Story: Carol Reed & Anthony Kimmins Screenplay: Carol Reed, Anthony Kimmins and George Barraud Cinematographer: Francis Carver Art Director: Wilfred Arnold Music: Percival Mackay Editor: Helen Lewis, Merrill White, Ltd, John Morris Who's Your Lady Friend (Dorion, 1937) Producer: Martin Sabine Screenplay: Anthony Kimmins and Julius Hoes, from the play Der Herr Ohne Wohnung by Oesterreicher and Jenbach Cinematographer: Jan Stallach Art Director: Erwin Scharf Music: Richard Stolz, Ernest Irving, Vivian Ellis Editor: Ernest Aldridge The Third Man Bank Holiday (Gainsborough, 1938) US title: Three on a Weekend Producer: Edward Black Story: Rodney Ackland, Hans Wilhelm Screenplay: Rodney Ackland, Hans Wilhelm, Roger Burford Cinematographer: Arthur Crabtree Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: R.E. Dearing Penny Paradise (Associated Talking Pictures, 1938) Producer: Basil Dean Story: Basil Dean Cinematographer: Ronald Neame, Gordon Dines Art Director: Wilfred Shingeleton Editor: Ernest Aldridge Climbing High (Gaumont-British, 1938) Story: Lesser Samuels, Marian Dix Screenplay: Stephen Clarkson Cinematographer: Mutz Greenbaum Art Director: H. Murton, Alfred Junge Music: Louis Levy Editor: Michael Gordon, A. Barnes A Girl Must Live (Gainsborough, 1939) Producer: Edward Black Story: Emery Bonnet Screenplay: Frank Launder, Austin Melford Cinematographer: Jack Cox Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: R.E. Dearing The Stars Look Down (Grafton, 1940) Producer: Issidore Goldsmith Screenplay: J.B. Williams from A.J. Cronin's novel The Stars Look Down Cinematographer: Mutz Greenbaum, Henry Harris Art Director: James Carter Music: Hans May Editor: Reginald Beck Night Train to Munich (20th Century-Fox, 1940) US title: Night Train Producer: Edward Black Story: Gordon Wellesley Screenplay: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Cinematographer: Otto Kanturek Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: R.E. Dearing The Girl in the News (20th Century-Fox, 1941) Producer: Edward Black Screenplay: Sidney Gilliat, from Ray Vicker's novel The Girl in the News Cinematographer: Otto Kanturek Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: R.E. Dearing Kipps (20th Century-Fox, 1941) U.S. title: The Remarkable Mr. Kipps Producer: Edward Black Screenplay: Sidney Gilliat, from H.G. Wells' novel Kipps Cinematographer: Arthur Crabtree Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: Alfred Roome Outcasts of the Islands A Letter from Home (20th Century-Fox, 1941) Producer: Edward Black Screenplay: Rodney Ackland and Arthur Boys Cinematographer: Jack Cox The Young Mr. Pitt (20th Century-Fox, 1942) Producer: Edward Black Story: Viscount Castelrosse Screenplay: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Cinematographer: Frederick Young Art Director: Vetchinsky Music: Louis Levy Editor: Alfred Roome The New Lot (Army Kinematographic Service, 1942) Released publicly as The Way Ahead (Two Cities, 1944) Producer: Norman Walker, John Sutro Story: Eric Ambler Screenplay: Eric Ambler, Peter Ustinov Cinematographer: Guy Green Art Director: David Rawnsley Music: William Alwyn Editor: Fergus McDonell The True Glory (Ministry of Information, Britain; Office of War Information, U.S., 1945) Co-director: Garson Kanin Screenplay: Private Harry Brown [et al] Music: William Alwyn Editor: Lt. Robert Verrell, Sgt. Leiberwitz, Sgt. Bob Farrell, Sgt. Jerry Cowen, Sgt. Bob Carrrick, Sgt. Bob Clark Odd Man Out (Two Cities, 1947) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: F.L. Green, R.C. Sherrif, from Green's novel Odd Man Out Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Art Director: Ralph Brinton Music: William Alwyn Editor: Fergus McDonell Award: British Film of the Year The Fallen Idol (London Films, 1948) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Graham Greene, from his story, The Basement Room Cinematographer: Georges Perinal Art Director: Vincent Korda, James Sawyer Music: William Alwyn Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter Award: British Film of the Year The Third Man (London Films, 1949) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Graham Greene Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Art Director: Vincent Korda Music: Anton Karas Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter Award: Prix D'Or, Cannes Award: British Film of the Year Outcasts of the Islands (London Films, 1952) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: William Fairchild, from Joseph Conrad's novel An Outcast of the Islands Cinematographer: John Wilcox Art Director: Vincent Korda Music: Brian Easdale Editor: Bert Bates The Man Between (London Films, 1953) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Harry Kurnitz from Walter's Ebert's novel Susanne in Berlin Cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson Art Director: Andre Andrejew Music: John Addison Editor: A.S. Bates A Kid for Two Farthings A Kid for Two Farthings (London Films, 1955) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Wolf Mankowitz from his novel A Kid for Two Farthings Cinematographer: Edward Scaife Art Director: Wilfred Shingleton Music: Benjamin Frankel Editor: A.S. Bates Trapeze (Hecht-Lancaster/Susan, 1956) Producer: James Hill Screenplay: James R. Webb, Liam O'Brien; from Max Catto's novel The Killing Frost Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Art Director: Rino Mondellini Music: Malcolm Arnold Editor: Bert Bates The Key (Open Road, 1958) Producer: Carl Foreman Screenplay: Carl Foreman, from Jan De Hartog's novella Stella Cinematographer: Oswald Morris Art Director: Geoffrey Drake Music: Malcolm Arnold Editor: Bert Bates Our Man in Havana (Columbia, 1959) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Graham Greene, from his novel Our Man in Havana Cinematographer: Oswald Morris Art Director: John Box Music: Hermos Deniz Cuban Rhythm Band Editor: Bert Bates The Running Man (Columbia, 1963) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: John Mortimer, from Shelley Smith's novel The Ballad of the Running Man Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Art Director: John Stoll Music: William Alwyn Editor: Bert Bates The Agony and the Ecstasy (20th Century-Fox, 1965) Producer: Carol Reed Screenplay: Philip Dunne, from Irving Stone's novel The Agony and the Ecstasy Cinematographer: Leon Shamroy Art Director: Jack Martin Smith Music: Alex North Editor: Samuel E. Beetley Oliver! (Romulus/Warwick/Columbia, 1968) Producer: John Woolf Screenplay: Vernon Harris, from the musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart Cinematographer: Oswald Morris Art Director: Terence Marsh Music: Lionel Bart Editor: Ralph Kemplen Academy Award: Best Picture, Best Director The Last Warrior (Warner Brothers, 1970) U.S. title: Flap Producer: Jerry Adler Screenplay: Clair Huffaker, from his novel Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian Cinematographer: Fred J. Koenekamp Art Director: Mort Rabinowitz Music: Marvin Hamlisch Editor: Frank Bracht Follow Me (Universal, 1971) U.S. title: The Public Eye Screenplay: Peter Shaffer, from his play The Public Eye Cinematographer: Christopher Challis Art Director: Robert Cartwright Music: John Barry Editor: Anne Coates

Select Bibliography

Gary Arnold, “Third Man's Second Take,” Insight on the News, 15 (36), September 27, 1999, p. 26 Rudy Behlmer, “Deja view,” American Cinematographer, June 1999, pp. 128-138 Jay Carr, “'The Third Man' comes back from the sewers,” The Boston Globe, June 18, 1999, p. 10 Carol Reed: edición bilingüe castellano/ingles, San Sebastián, Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián, Madrid, Filmoteca española, 2000 Pam Cook and Mieke Bernink (eds.), The Cinema Book, 2nd ed., BFI Publishing, London, 1999 Charles Drazin, In Search of The Third Man, New York, Limelight Editions, 2000 Paul A. Driver, “Third Man,” Sight and Sound, 59 (1), Winter 1989, pp. 36-42 Graham Greene, The Third Man, London, Faber and Faber, 1988 Penelope Houston, Keepers of the Frame: the film archives, British Film Institute, London, 1994 Stanley Kauffmann, “Orson Welles: The One-Man Band,” New Republic, 216 (1-2), January 6, 1997, pp. 24-26 Philip Kemp, “The Third Man,” Sight and Sound, 4, April 1994, pp. 54-56 Grant Lobban, “The restoration business part three: the quest for the definitive version,” SMPTE, July 1998, pp. 432-435 Jeff Miller, “Restoration of 'Third Man' doesn't diminish its quality,” The Houston Chronicle, September 10, 1999, p. 3 "Moreover: Past it," Economist, 351 (8121), May 29, 1999, p. 85 Robert F. Moss, The Films of Carol Reed, New York, Columbia University Press, 1987 George Perry, The Great British Picture Show, Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1974 Paul Read and Mark-Paul Meyer, Restoration of Motion Picture Film, Butterworth Heineman, Oxford, 2000 Jonathan Romney, “Touch of Evil,” New Statesman, 128 (4439), June 7, 1999, pp. 40-41 Barry Salt, Film Style and Technology: history and analysis, London, Starword, 1983 Michael Sragow, “Truer to the main men of the 'The Third Man',” New York Times, Sec2, May 9, 1999, p. 28 Robert Krasker, “The Third Man, Robert Krasker, BSC,” American Cinematographer, March 1999, p. 116 François Truffaut, Hitchcock, Secker and Warburg, 1968; USA, Simon & Schuster

Web Resources

Compiled by Albert Fung Britmovie Contains brief biography and plot synopsis for each film. Film Directors: Articles on the Internet Several online articles can be found here. Good Golly, Mr. Holly Article by Gary Morris in January 2000 issue of Bright Lights Film Journal. Guardian Unlimited Film An article on The Third Man. Click here to search for Carol Reed DVDs, videos and books at


  1. Robert F. Moss, The Films of Carol Reed, New York, Columbia University Press, 1987, p. 66
  2. Moss, p. 68
  3. Moss, p. 71
  4. Moss, p. 96
  5. George Perry, The Great British Picture Show, Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1974, pp. 84, 98
  6. Moss, p. 99
  7. Moss, p. 69
  8. Pam Cook and Mieke Bernink (eds.), The Cinema Book, 2nd ed., BFI Publishing, London, 1999, p. 276
  9. Perry, p. 103
  10. Moss, p. 139
  11. Perry, p. 125
  12. Perry, p. 82
  13. Robert Krasker, “The Third Man, Robert Krasker, BSC,” American Cinematographer, March 1999, p. 116
  14. Barry Salt, Film Style and Technology: history and analysis, London, Starword, 1983, p. 298
  15. Carol Reed: edición bilingüe castellano/ingles, San Sebastián, Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián, Madrid, Filmoteca española, 2000, pp. 304, 348
  16. Charles Drazin, In Search of The Third Man, New York, Limelight Editions, 2000, pp. 80-81
  17. Drazin, p. 56
  18. Drazin, pp. 76, 81
  19. Drazin, pp. 139-140
  20. text
  21. Drazin, p. 112
  22. Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián, p. 276
  23. Greene, p. 127
  24. Taken from Moss, pp. 285-295