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The shiny floor dilemma


Getting Steve Martin to dance like Fred Astaire
Ken Adam Artist
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We even used [Fred] Astaire's and Ginger Rogers' sequence and… There will be troubles ahead, I can't... can't remember now of the name – oh, Follow the Fleet was the name – and black and white, and they're dancing it in a sort of lighthouse, and we had Steve [Martin] and the girl dancing with them, in other words you see the big screen of Astaire and Ginger waltzing or tap dancing the scene and... and Steve is sitting in the audience with his girlfriend, and they're both miserable because he's accused of a murder which he didn't do, and we then transferred Steve and the girlfriend onto the stage to dance together with Astaire and Ginger.

Well, you have the big screen back projection, and you have Steve full size with Bernadette Peters dancing the same number in front. Well, it wasn't easy, and you have to remember that Steve only did learn to dance really eight weeks before, so Herb [Ross] and Nora [Kaye], and we had a brilliant tap dance choreographer too, they were all sweating... how can we get away with it, but we did get away with it.

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: Follow the Fleet, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Herbert Ross, Nora Kaye

Duration: 2 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011