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Designing the L-street and 'Hopper' cafe
Ken Adam Artist
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I also designed of course the... the L-street in Chicago. Unfortunately we didn't make too much use of it, but I used the… some of the… who was a famous painter of the period? Potter or… no…

[Q] American painter?

Mm?

[Q] American painter?

American painter.

[Q] Hopper?

Yeah. Hopper, yeah, and I designed the café at the corner, which is a very famous painting. I completely did it like the painting because as… you know, the problem I had, you design a street on the biggest stage in Hollywood, what are you going to put in that street? I mean, it was a L street, so I couldn't build the structure of the L. I didn't need to see the train. I mean, you could see a shadow effect or something, but you've got a street 300' long or something and then I curved it and so on.

So I used a lot of… well, not a lot; some of the artists of the depression like Hopper, and one who had painted models, mannequins modelling their clothes on the second floor, so almost each store or shop had some history to it, and it... it became a very successful street set, so successful that MGM kept it for I think two or three years to do other films on it. And even though I think I was a year and a half on the film it was… it was the only really major musical I had done. It was a fantastic experience for me.

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, Pennies from Heaven, Edward Hopper

Duration: 2 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011