Saturday, January 22, 2011

[Characters] Harry Lime

File:Orson Welles 1937.jpg
In the 1949 classic noir film The Third Man, Orson Welles plays immoral black-marketeer Harry Lime trying desperately to escape war-ravaged Vienna right after World War II.

Harry steals a new antibiotic called penicillin from local military hospitals, dilutes it then sells it on the black market, to the detriment of his customers. He fakes his own death to take the money and run, escaping the law on all sides: Soviet, American, British and French.

Unfortunately, his old friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) shows up and tries to find out what happened to Harry. Hearing that Harry had been struck and killed by a truck, he investigates, trying to find a mysterious third man spotted at the scene of the accident when only two had been reported. I won't ruin any more of the movie for you but I suggest you watch it. Orson Welles is excellent.

Now back to our Harry.

He's wonderfully immoral. A perfect NPC for any game. Either as a foil for the PCs or a black market contact or a friend that becomes an enemy over time. And he's damn useful in any genre.

When Holly asks him "Have you ever seen any of your victims?" Harry responds:

"You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays."


"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."


"Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. 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, so have I." 

and when Holly says "You used to believe in God." Harry corrects him:

"Oh, I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and Mercy and all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils."

Watch the film. Use Harry in your next game. And, don't worry, I'm not going to bother writing up his stats because you should decide what skills, abilities and qualities make him fit your game best. Just make sure he's perfectly immoral and have fun with him. You won't be disappointed.

I'll let Harry end this post with his best:

"What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn't expect me to give myself up... 'It's a far, far better thing that I do.' The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories. "


  1. I also loved the sewer system in the film, let alone the unofficial Cold War politics.
    --A great film overall.

  2. Yeah, an excellent film all around - couple that with Citizen Kane and the radio War of the Worlds and you've got a trifecta of greatness.


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