The Lives of Harry Lime

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Overview | Significance | Background | Plot | Cast | Resources | Episodes

Overview

The Adventures of Harry Lime (retitled The Lives of Harry Lime for American broadcast, 1951-1952) was a weekly syndicated OTR drama starring Orson Welles. Episodes depict Lime's many misadventures and provide a prequel to Welles' role as con-artist Harry Lime in the 1949 British noir film The Third Man.

Significance

Orson Welles was a well known American radio actor and director, noted for his many appearances on The March of Time since 1935, his work with The Columbia Workshop on their production of "The Fall of the City" in 1937, and his starring the title role of The Shadow for its 1938 season. On 30 October 1938 he achieved immediate international notoriety for his production, direction, and starring role in The War of the Worlds with The Mercury Theatre of the Air. Notoriety brought a sponser, and The Mercury Theatre on the Air was renamed The Campbell Playhouse. Wells remained until 31 March 1940. In 1941, 1942, and again in 1946, Welles starred in "The Hitchhiker," a radio drama written for him by Lucille Fletcher. Later, Welles hosted and narrated The Black Museum (1952-1954).

Both crime and detective stories were popular Old Time Radio (OTR) genres from the 1940s-1950s. This popularity coincided with rising concerns for emerging criminal activities, especially organized crime, and containment efforts at all levels. The Black Museum is acknowledged as the best of four series focused on The Black Museum, Scotland Yard, London, England.

Background

(Music: Third Man Theme. Abruptly cut off by an echoing gunshot.)

Orson 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 Third Man, a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed, is one of Britian's most memorable films. And, as portrayed on screen by Orson Welles, Harry Lime is its most memorable character. A con-artist, Lime is shot and killed in the sewers of Vienna following the end of World War II. Despite being a villain—diluted penicillin he stole from military hospitals and sold on the black market killed many people—Lime is an attractive anti-hero, played to perfection by Welles.

The Adventures of Harry Lime radio series provides a prequel to the life and death of Harry Lime, a character in the 1949 British film noir The Third Man. Graham Greene wrote the screenplay, and published his novella, written in preparation for the screenplay, following the film's release.

The radio series was produced by Harry Allen Towers, and distributed by his company, Towers of London. During World War II, Towers repackaged and distributed radio broadcasts via electrical transcriptions (ETs; record albums) to British military forces overseas. After the war, he developed a successful career as an independent radio, television, and film producer.

Towers purchased the rights to use the name and character "Harry Lime," unsold in Greene's publishing deal. He saw economic opportunities in a radio series focusing on Lime's exploits. But Harry Lime was killed at the end of the film. How to tell stories about a dead man?

Enter Orson Welles. In 1948-1949, Welles undertook a self-imposed exile in Europe to escape a listless Hollywood career and potential persecution for his politics in America. In London, England, he met Towers who was interested to produce radio drama. Towers hoped to leverage Welles' creativity and radio drama experience into successful radio series. Welles needed to raise money for his independent film projects. Welles suggested each episode dramatize a Lime misadventure prior to his arrival in Vienna. A deal was struck.

Towers contracted Welles to appear in The Adventures of Harry Lime (fifty-two episodes; 1951-1952 season) and The Black Museum (fifty-two episodes; 1952-1954). Towers also produced "The Final Problem," an episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Sir John Gielgud as Holmes, Sir Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson, and Welles as Professor Moriarty. The series aired Sundays, 2 January-5 June 1955, on BBC.

Distribution of The Adventures of Harry Lime was hampered by the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) ban against commercial broadcasts throughout the British Empire. Towers turned to a network of ET pressing operations and broadcast outlets around the world he had utilized during World War II as a way to distribute his program without violating BBC rules. The earliest known broadcasts of The Adventures of Harry Lime was via "pirate" radio station Radio Luxembourg 1951-1952.

Plot

Episodes depict Lime's many misadventures and provide a prequel to Welles' role as con-artist Harry Lime in the 1949 British noir film The Third Man.

Cast

Harry Lime / narrator (Orson Welles)
Producer (Harry Allen Towers)

Resources

The Lives of Harry Lime radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Episodes at Internet Archive website
Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website
The Definitive Lives of Harry Lime at Digital Deli Too website

Episodes

Totals

Total episodes: 52
Surviving episodes: 52

Timeline

1951-1952
52 episodes broadcast as The Adventures of Harry Lime via "pirate" Radio Luxembourg (The Definitive Lives of Harry Lime)
5 December 1951-28 May 1952
25 episodes broadcast via Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) in United States. Retitled as The Lives of Harry Lime. Order of episodes is unknown.
3 September 1952-5 November 1954
52 episodes broadcast by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
16 episodes broadcast in England. The first dramatic episodes broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that it did not produce.

Inventory

Information and description for each episode of the series. Learn more.
Episodes available at Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website.

Exemplary Episodes
The first two and the last episodes of The Adventures of Harry Lime series.
  • Episode 1

    "Too Many Crooks"
    Episode 01, 3 August 1951
    In Budapest, Harry gets mixed up with a bank robbery attempt where each member of the gang tries to out-doublecross the other.

  • Episode 2

    "See Naples and Live"
    Episode 02, 10 August 1951
    In Naples, Harry plans to heist a beautiful emerald locket from a Neapolitan socialite. But, he is harried by a disgruntled former associate.

  • Episode 52

    "Greek Meets Greek"
    Episode 52, 25 July 1952
    In Greece, Harry contends with the measles, a dead body, and a mysterious woman with a gun claiming someone is trying to kill her. Her story, however, does not make sense.