May 1, 2014

Z Is for Zither

"Zither: a musical instrument that has strings stretched across a shallow wooden box and that is played with your fingers or a pick." — Merriam-Webster
Alpine zither

For my last post in the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen to write about the instrument that features in one of my favorite movies: The Third Man. Set in post-WWII Vienna, this classic film noir was filmed in black and white to capture the bleak landscape and devastation left behind after the war. 

The Film
Directed by Carol Reed and starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, and Valli, the award-winning film is considered by many to be one of the greatest of all time. Awards include the 1949 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix, the 1949 British Academy Award for Best Film, and the 1950 Oscar for Best Black and White Cinematography. The British Film Institute in 1999 selected The Third Man as the best British film of the twentieth century.

The Viennese Riesenrad
Photo by Chris Dixon

In describing The Third Man, noted film critic Gene Siskel remarked that it was an "exemplary piece of moviemaking, highlighting the ruins of WWII and juxtaposing it with the characters' own damaged histories." 

The Score
Composed for the zither by Anton Karas, who also played the solo instrument, The Third Man score often is described as a stellar example of the film composer's art.      
Original U.S.
movie poster

According to a November 1949 Time magazine article: "The picture demanded music appropriate to post-World War II Vienna, but director Reed had made up his mind to avoid schmalzy, heavily orchestrated waltzes. In Vienna one night Reed listened to a wine-garden zitherist named Anton Karas, [and] was fascinated by the jangling melancholy of his music."

And Roger Ebert wrote, "Has there ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than in Carol Reed's The Third Man?"

If you haven't seen the film, I heartily recommend that you rent it from your preferred vendor. And here is the original trailer with the iconic zither theme: 


A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

For more information, follow the A to Z Facebook page or go to @AprilA2Z on Twitter and give them a Follow.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Donna. And thanks for suggesting I do this. Totally worth the effort.

  2. You did it! Congratulations!