Not long ago I wrote about the figure of the salesman in American drama — it wasn’t a complete list, of course; among others I left out The Music Man‘s Prof. Harold Hill. For some reason the salesman has not been as common a character in film; with the exception of the fine Maysles documentary Salesman (1968), I find it hard to think of these films off the top of my head.
But they’re there. The Third Man‘s villain, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), is a salesman too. His crime is to steal penicillin, dilute it, then re-sell it on the black market to hospitals in dire need of the antibiotic, leading to suffering and death for many children. In the below clip from the film, Lime tries to sell his friend, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), his own Weltanschauung. The Third Man (1949) remains one of the great films of all time, a cracking entertainment and a mordant commentary on American naïveté, and it’s always worth another look.