Anton Karas (July 7, 1906 – January 10, 1985) was a Viennese zither player, best known for his soundtrack to Carol Reed's 1949 adaptation of The Third Man.
In 1948, director Reed was preparing to shoot The Third Man in Vienna and decided to have Karas playing the zither for the soundtrack. Reluctant Karas was invited to London and lived with Reed while composing the score, and at that time was drawing a considerable salary of 30 GBP a week, plus 20 in pocket money, with expenses. The soundtrack was created in Korda's London Films studios, and Karas, who was homesick most of the time, worked up to 14 hours a day for twelve weeks: He had not been a composer before, but a great performer, and added improvisations to his repertoire. Later, Karas would mention that Reed almost "kept him like a slave" when he wanted to go back to Vienna more than once.
The film, not at least due to its music, turned into a gigantic success which changed Karas' life. As a result, he toured all over the world and performed for many celebrities, among them members of the British Royal family (Princess Margaret had invited him to London's fashionable Empress Club, where he played twice a week during his stay at London), Juliana of the Netherlands, members of the Swedish royal family, and Pope Pius XII.
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.