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My first film: This Was a Woman

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Riverside Studios: how I got started in film
Ken Adam Artist
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After the war, I... visited all the film producers and directors that I had met during the war who had promised me everything, and they said, 'Well, Ken, you really ought to be in a union'. I said, 'Well, I'm perfectly willing to join a union'. They said, 'But you can't join a union unless you've worked for six weeks in a film studio'. And you know, it was... I was very, very depressed because all these people who when the war was on had promised me everything, you know. And so I was fooling around a lot, you know, going to... try and amuse myself, and… until, and that was very strange, my sister at the time was working at the American embassy in the publicity department or something, and one day a little man came in. He was a buyer of a film studio, of a film, and he said to her, 'Can you' – it was an American film – 'Can you help me in getting some American weapons and props for this film?' And so she said, 'Yes, I think I can get them for you, but I have a young brother who has just come out of the air force, and he draws rather well, and do you think he... you have a way for him to get into films?' And he said, 'Yes, why doesn't he see the art director at Riverside Studios?' And I saw the art director at Riverside Studios, and that's how I got into films.

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: World War II, UK, London, Riverside Studios

Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011