7 July 1906
10 January 1985 (aged 78)
Anton Karas (July 7, 1906 – January 10, 1985) was a Viennese zither player, best known for his soundtrack to Carol Reed's The Third Man.
The son of a car worker, Anton Karas began playing the Zither at the age of 12. He subsequently earned his living as an entertainer in a Heurige (Viennese Wine Bar). In 1949 director Carol Reed was shooting The Third Man in Vienna when he heard Karas playing the zither. Immediately taken by the sound of the instrument Reed asked him to supply the background music to the film. He was invited to London and lived with Reed while composing the score.
The success of "The Third Man" changed Karas' life. He played all over the world, and performed for the British Royal family and the Pope. As a result of the change of fortune, Karas earned the nick name of "Mr. Cinderella". By the end of 1949, a half million copies of "The Harry Lime Theme" had been sold, an unprecedented amount for the time. The success of the score also caused a surge in zither sales.
Despite his success, Vienna remained close to his heart. On returning to the city he tried to run his own Heurige, but it was not commercially viable. Karas was not highly regarded in his home city, as "The Third Man" was not a film about the glory of the Habsburg monarchy, but about the disgrace of the defeated Austria. Zither music was not popular. Karas found himself and the business subject to numerous lawsuits.
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