On a chance meeting in a Vienna bistro, film director Carol Reed heard Anton Karas’s playing the zither (for tips!). Upon having the revelation that this was the sound he wanted for his film The Third Man, Reed convinced the 40-hear-old Karas to compose the entire film score. Karas revived a tune he hadn’t played in 15 years as the main theme song for the film. In the UK, where the song was as wildly popular as it was in the US, the theme was more popularly known as “The Harry Lime Theme,” named after the main character in the film (played by actor Orson Welles). It topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, spending 11 weeks atop the Billboard best sellers chart in the US.
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass originally recorded the tune as a single, with “A Taste of Honey” on the B-side. DJs began playing “Honey” instead, which opened the floodgates for the immensely popular Whipped Cream & Other Delights album. “Third Man Theme” would end up on the following album, Going Places, several months later.