Wales

The Third Man film's Welsh inspiration as script is valued

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Media captionJoyce Bowden's son is auctioning letters from his mother giving an insight into the film industry

Film critics describe The Third Man, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten, as a masterpiece of cinema.

But the 1949 film may have never been made if it was not for the late Joyce Bowden from Monmouth.

She summarised the Graham Greene novella - upon which the film script was based - for director Carol Reed while working as a temp after World War Two in London.

Her son, Guy Bowden, now wants to sell the original working script his mother kept to someone who might "appreciate the historical value".

His mother had retrained as a secretary after serving in the RAF during the war, when, as a life-long "film buff" she landed her "dream job" while temping in London - the chance to work with Reed.

Reed would later go on to direct the film Oliver! and win an academy award, but first he made a film noir classic - with the help of Mr Bowden's mother, the then Joyce Hedger.

Image copyright Guy Bowden

"The story she told - and she was a very truthful lady - is that someone came in one day with the Graham Greene novella and suggested to Reed that it would make a really good film.

"In his normal way he said he 'didn't have time to read this kind of thing', so he tossed it to her and said, 'Can you summarise this for me?'

"She produced a precis for him and based on that he decided it would make a good film - presumably he asked her for her opinion as well."

The Third Man tells the story of a novelist travelling to post-war impoverished Vienna in search of a childhood friend, where conspiracy theories, romance and moral dilemma develop.

Nigel Orrillard, a senior lecturer in film at the University of South Wales, said The Third Man was still so highly rated because each element of the production was "at the top of it's game".

He added: "From the direction, the use of tilted angles, Orson Welles cast as this ambiguous cherub, served further by the cinematography.

"We can't quite often see who is who, or what is what, and that's matched all the way through with a very distinctive score which has been widely played and well received ever since."

Image copyright Getty Images

A makeshift brown-tape spine holds together the 50-odd year-old screenplay.

"It seems like this was a working script because some of the bits that Orson Welles is supposed to have added are not in here - like the famous cuckoo clock scene," Mr Bowden explained.

A pencil-written note on the script in his mother's handwriting to Reed questions whether the main character's name should be changed to Holly.

He listened to her advice and in the final film, Cotten played the character Holly Martins not Rollo Martins as the original script named.

Mr Bowden's mother told him that Reed stumbled across the film's critically acclaimed score after first trying Austrian marching bands and jazz music.

"A man called Anton Karas - he played the zither at the time, which is just a stringed plucked instrument," he said.

"Carol Reed, Guy Hamilton, the assistant director [who would later go on to direct several Bond films] and a few others, including my mother, were in a cafe in Vienna.

"They heard this man who was the house musician playing - Carol Reed just looked at everyone and said, 'That's the sound I want' and that's what ended up on the film."

The script only tells part of the story though - after his mother died last year Mr Bowden found detailed letters she kept describing life on set and in hotels while filming.

Joyce told her future husband that star Orson Welles was "loathed" by the cast and crew.

"My mother never had a bad word to say about anybody, but he obviously had a short temper and stormed off set, although she does later say that everyone appreciated he was a very good actor," Mr Bowden said.

Also among her personal effects was an invitation - to the newly married Mrs Bowden - to attend the premiere of the film in London despite no longer being employed by the film company.

With no close family to pass the script and letters on to, Mr Bowden took them to the BBC's Antiques Roadshow in Tewkesbury earlier this year and the show will be screened on Sunday.

Mr Bowden admitted he was surprised at how much it was said to be worth, and hopes his mother's carefully preserved memories of 1940s Britain will find a good new home.

"I think I would prefer, now we have a kind of story to it, for it to go to somebody who would appreciate it in terms of its historical value - if it has such a thing," he said.

To find out more watch BBC One at 20:00 BST on Sunday.

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