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The MGM studios


Pennies from Heaven
Ken Adam Artist
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After the last Bond, which was Moonraker, I got a call from John Frankenheimer who wanted me to do a film in... in Hollywood, and so we went over there and it was… I can't even remember the title, but it was a film dealing with the Cuban exiles and Miami and... and so on, and I had to do a lot of location finding. We flew to Cuba and nearly got into trouble because it was still very much a communist regime, and then I found a great location in Mexico and so on, and then the whole film suddenly was cancelled.

I never knew the exact reason, but I think John Frankenheimer was a bit of a naughty boy with one of the producer's or distributor's wife or something like that, and overnight the film was cancelled and… which was really rather sad because it could have been a good film, and all the films I was working on then didn't materialise, except a film called Pennies from Heaven. And you must remember that Herb Ross was a choreographer and he was married to... to Nora Kaye who was one of the most important ballet… New York ballet stars in the… during the '50s and so on, and we were very close, and I always wanted to do a musical, and to do a musical at the old MGM studios in Los Angeles was the height of my achievements I've had, because it was still the old MGM studios, you see.

I mean, they had sold the lot unfortunately, though. That didn't exist any longer, but there were five or six films shot at the same time. Billy Wilder was doing a film, and I knew Billy and so I quite often had lunch with him, and you know, he had that dry sense of humour, and while we were still shooting at seven o'clock in the evening he finished by three o'clock in the afternoon, and he said to me ‘Ken, I don't know what you're doing’.

Sir Kenneth Adam (1921-2016), OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam, was a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Moonraker, Cuba, Mexico, Pennies from Heaven, New York, MGM, John Frankenheimer, Herbert Ross, Nora Kaye, Billy Wilder

Duration: 3 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011