A Viennese Moment

20 Apr

Anyone who has seen “The Third Man” has seen the famous Austrian actor, Paul Hörbiger. He played the concierge who witnessed Harry Lime’s accident and who says one of my favorite lines in the film. When Holly Martins, Lime’s friend, asks questions about the accident, Hörbiger says brusquely and full of fear, “Und jetzt gehen Sie sonst verliere ich meinen Wiener Charme” (“And now get out or I’ll forget my Viennese charm”).

In today’s Kurier there’s a short piece about a documentary on Hörbiger’s life in which the journalist, Georg Markus, tells a story he experienced with Hörbiger in 1979 in Prague, when Hörbiger was about 85 years old. They entered a restaurant where piano music was playing. As often happened, all the other patrons of the restaurant gave Hörbiger an ovation. The pianist, Arnos Vrana, stopped playing what he was playing and started instead to play an old, popular Czech song, “Pisnička Česka”. When he finished, he and Hörbiger fell weeping into each other’s arms.

The song had been composed by one of Hörbiger’s friends, Karel Hašler, who was killed in a concentration camp because he was Jewish. The song was outlawed by the Nazis and because Hörbiger, who already knew about his friend’s fate, was present when it was played by that same pianist in Prague in 1940 he, Hörbiger, was arrested for the first time by the Gestapo. Almost forty years later the pianist had recognized Hörbiger and played the song.

Link to the article: https://kurier.at/kultur/geschichten-mit-geschichte/ein-unerwarteter-anruf-hier-spricht-paul-hoerbiger/400472047

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