Harry Lime

As movie stars and celebrities go Orson Wells has to be considered one of the more familiar visitors to Tacoma during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Orson Wells, Rita Hayworth and daughter Rebecca

Rebecca Wells, the daughter of Orson and the glamorous Rita Hayworth went to college and UPS and then lived most of her life here. She became a colorful and loved character at Magoo’s Annex in the North End, spinning stories about her Hollywood royalty parents and her own counterculture life story.

Orson Wells was a house guest more than once at Ray Gamble’s home on 30th, where the two prestidigitation enthusiasts shared their magic tricks, cigars and brandy and love of interesting dinner guests. Wells was also a friend of ragtime jazz musician Joe Jordan who wrote the music for his production of Macbeth for the Federal Theatre Project in the late 30’s.

In 1948, Wells played one of his best remembered characters in the film version of Graham Green’s dark post war story, The Third Man. The cynical, shadowy anti-hero of the film, set in the war torn ruins of noirish Vienna, is a scoundrel named Harry Lime, played by Wells. Two years later in 1951, Wells revived the character in a radio program called The Lives of Harry Lime. As he did in 1938 with his cultural landmark program The War of the Worlds, Wells created an immersive reality filled with people trying to put their lives and the world back together after World War Two. Uncertainty, a sense of hidden evil and unsettled endings marked every episode.


As I write this in April 2020, during the isolated, enclosed days of the COVID 19 virus, the life and times of Harry Lime seem strangely in tune with the world around us. So here is one of the best episodes from the radio series, Harry Joins the Circus. Enjoy…


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This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.


  1. The Third Man is my #1 most favorite film. And the soundtrack’s zither music from Austrian Anton Kara’s is wonderful, the melodies unforgettable. More on that here: https://youtu.be/gFz79SBnuk8

    As I recall, Rebecca Wells is one of several locals who show up in the collection of Tacoma-based fictional short stories in the book, Tacoma Stories by Richard Wiley. Recommended reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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