The character Harry Lime first appeared in the 1948 Graham Greene novella The Third Man and the 1949 award-winning film of the same name. The film character, portrayed by Orson Welles, was a ruthless black marketeer who cared nothing about anyone except himself, even selling out his own girlfriend for a price. In the early 1950s Welles began a radio program, The Lives of Harry Lime, with stories of Lime's life leading up to his appearance in The Third Man. In 1959, a joint US/UK television production of a series loosely based on the character Harry Lime began. Instead of portraying Lime as the totally immoral antihero of film, radio and book, in the TV series Lime was presented as a man who successfully made the transition from thief and black marketeer to a law-abiding import/export company operator.
Harry Lime (portrayed by British actor Michael Rennie, best-known to American audiences for his role as the alien Klaatu in the classic 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still) is the owner/operator of Harry Lime, Inc., an international import/export organization with offices in New York City and London. Harry has an assistant, the no-nonsense, numbers-crunching accountant/associate Bradford Webster (Jonathan Harris in a role six years before his best-known role of Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space). Harry is a ladies' man, a world traveler, and a world-renowned businessman -- even though his criminal past occasionally haunts him. In contrast, Brad is strictly business: he can rattle off the projected profit of a business deal in terms of both American dollars and British pounds without the aid of an adding machine, and occasionally appears to have a negative attitude toward Harry's romantic encounters with women from around the world.
The so-called "The Third Man Theme" is actually titled "The Harry Lime Theme." The song was a worldwide hit upon the release of the movie. Anton Karas, who wrote the song, provided the music on the zither in the film. Various versions of the song, from Chet Atkins to Guy Lumbardo to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass to The Band, have been recorded, and over forty million copies of the song from the various versions have been sold. The series occasionally uses Karas' recording of "The Harry Lime Theme" as background music.