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'The first and last major musical I had ever designed'

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Chicago recce
Ken Adam Artist
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The film was supposed to be shot all, or most of it, on location in Chicago, so I spent about two or three weeks in Chicago mapping out the locations.

It was a cold winter, freezing, I'll never forget, the moment I put my camera outside it started freezing up. Letitzia had to warm it up in... in her fur coat or whatever it was, and I thought, you know, Herb [Ross] is not going to go and like Chicago for this picture, and he came and he was not in the best of mood, and then he came again and I said to him, ‘Two more months and I bet you something is going to happen, we are not going to shoot in Chicago’, and then he had come to an agreement with MGM that the whole film was… they... you know, the head of MGM said ‘You've got a designer like Ken Adam, use MGM, we'll give you the biggest stages at MGM, and let him do it’. So I was quite pleased even after I'd wasted weeks and weeks in the freezing cold in Chicago, you know, but even the big stage at MGM was not enough, so I had to use Goldwyn's studios and another studio, because we had to build everything.

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: Chicago, MGM, Herbert Ross

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011