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Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Powell

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Paul Sheriff
Ken Adam Artist
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[Q] And were you by now, what would you be called at that time?

I was an Associate Art Director. And in Ischia I really did… I mean my boss was Paul Sheriff, who was a Russian Count Shuvalov, who used to make beautiful oil paintings, which were sent to Hollywood, but they're really quite impractical. I always used to call – I had the office next to him – he used to call me, 'What do you think of this?' So, I said, 'Paul, it's beautiful, but what is it?'

And, he said, 'You see, that's what I want, because when Jack Warner and the other guys are standing around, they're such snobs, and nobody is going to ask what is it', you know. Yeah, he had a terrible sense of humour, mind, but he also was very lucky that he had very, very, very good assistants. And he became very close in more than one way with a famous English production designer called Carmen Dillon, I don't know if you remember her, and Carmen did a lot of Paul's work.

But, he had a... a great sense of humour, and his instructions to me in Ischia were, 'I leave that to you, and please don't try and contact me, or wake me up between the hours of two and five o'clock in the afternoon'. He was so Russian at that... you know, and I could never take him seriously.

And I was very sad when he died because he left, you know, his wife and other people without sufficient means, and we had to get money together, and so on, but he was a fantastic character and very artistic. These were all people brought over by the Kordas from Europe, you know.

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: Ischia, Hollywood, Paul Sheriff, Paul Shuvalov, Jack Warner, Carmen Dillon

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011