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Dad, Mum and The Third Man

June 11th, 2013

I attended the WID dental expo in Vienna recently. So much to write about, and so little of it to do with the world of dentistry. First, let me tell you about the wonderful entertainment, presented by the WID organisers. On the Friday evening, many, if not all of the ‘younger’ dental professionals were offered an excellent buffet, washed down by a continuous supply of some of Austria’s best wines, backed up by some great musical entertainment on a stage. This went on late into the night.

We in the industry are concerned at the downward slide of attendance at exhibitions, and do take notice of the various ideas to attract customers. 2 days instead if 3 is a way of ‘making the expo look busier’ which, in turn, creates a healthier atmosphere for business. I’ve always been saying that an expo should always appear to have ‘more visitors than exhibitors’. Empty aisles are horrible. Then the exhibitors chat to each other, or they sit down away from the demo counters, so that when a potential client passes by, they try to avoid eye contact, not wishing to disturb the exhibitor’s apparent apathy.

In Vienna, there was wine and song, and that worked quite well.

But, and I am sure I surprise no one, Vienna has many other attractive aspects.

One almost forgotten fact is that it was the setting for Sir Carol Reed’s masterpiece of the silver screen, ‘The Third Man’. This one of Orson Welles greatest films, and also starred Joseph Cotten,  Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, and the fabulous Alida Valli. For those of you who are really interested in film trivia, especially when it’s connected to our dental world, the 1948 film was voted in the UK and several other countries as the best British film of the 20th Century.

And it also featured my parents.

My father was the actor, Eric Pohlmann. IMDB (Internet Movie Date Base currently lists 197 movies, TV films etc. in which he appeared). So he was no slouch. Look him up. His wife, my mother, started off in Czechoslovakia as a theatrical actress. (My parents met in Brno in 1938, and it was from there that they both eventually escaped horrors of Continental Europe at the time, and ended up in the UK, where they married). ‘The Third Man’ was one of my father’s first movies. He actually featured in it as a British actor, but, in fact, he was one of the few in the film who were actually born in Vienna.

Around 6 years ago, Gerhard Strassgschwandtner fulfilled his childhood dream and established the The Third Man Museum in Vienna. (There is also a separate ‘tour of the Viennese sewers’, following Harry Lyme’s famous footsteps underneath the ruins of the occupied city). In a series of rooms, Gerhard and his wife have set up a terrific memorial to a great movie, with details and information on every credited performer. (Neither of my parents were actually credited performers. My father has a 2-minute scene as a barman early in the movie and my mother, dear lady, was the famous voice that calls from a window and causes all eyes and ears to follow the fleeing Harry Lyme.

Gerhard and the son of Eric Pohlmann

The original Zither, played by Anton Karas

My colleague, Alex Gschwend, with Harry Lyme’s shadow.

In more rooms, there is a reminder of Vienna in the post-war period. A reminder that Austria was an occupied country until 1955, that Vienna was in ruins, than many thousands had died in the the last days of the war, and that the famous and fabulous First District of the city was considered so special by the allies that, unlike Berlin, it was actually shared by the Americans, French, Russians and British, with every military vehicle manned by a representative of each country. ‘A 4-Jeep’ they would call the vehicles.

Viennese destruction

Hanging film tape – best way to avoid breakage

The 4-Jeep, containing each of the Allies…

I visited the museum together with some dental colleagues; there were perhaps 10 other visitors/tourists with us. They were pleasantly surprised to be served sparkling wine and chocolates. This was because the son of Eric Pohlmann was one of the visitors, and the museum was most honoured….

A PS is that the museum has a special display on the life of Trevor Howard, whose 100th birthday it would have been in September 2013. Well, Eric Pohlmann’s 100th would have been July 18th this year. So Herr Strassgschwandtner and I are hastily ‘arranging something’ for display. Another honour.

Smile – Promote your dentist.

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