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Designing the L-street and 'Hopper' cafe

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The Cuban
Ken Adam Artist
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We had several numbers, you know, which were unbelievable. I can't unfortunately remember, there was a Cuban choreographer who was very tall and he was… played the accordion man in the film, and there's a dance number when he sits with Steve [Martin] in the diner and I open the diner up and this Cuban goes into... to the music of Pennies from Heaven, walks onto the stage floor, and I had designed a... a 60ft backing, all with a collage of Walker Evans photographs of the depression. And so the Cuban looks very small in front of that 60ft backing with the pennies coming down and the music of Pennies from Heaven, and it is one of the great numbers of all times, if... if you saw it, I don't know, but it's worthwhile looking at it just for that number because he does like a soft shoe shuffle or whatever is it, and we were all amazed.

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: Pennies from Heaven, Steve Martin, Walker Evans

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011