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Getting Steve Martin to dance like Fred Astaire


Pennies from Heaven: problems selling the film
Ken Adam Artist
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We had problems when the picture came out because MGM tried to sell it as their biggest, you know, musicals and... Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire or something, which of course it wasn't and, you know, when the writer, who was sort of… you knew him, a depressed person, and the story was during the depression of the '30s, and so it wasn't exactly a cheerful musical, though some of the numbers were cheerful, and when the film came out, you see, the audience they... expected like a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, which it wasn't, and it didn't do that well.

Then they redid it, I mean reprinted it, and it then became very successful the second time it was released.

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: 1930s, MGM, Pennies from Heaven, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011