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Michael Todd

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Designing Around the World in 80 Days
Ken Adam Artist
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I had one very big break, which was to design Around the World in 80 Days for Michael Todd. All that came about through Paramount here – I'd done some work for them, also in... not to do with films, you know, their offices, and so on. And you must remember in those days all the major American studios had their companies here, you know, MGM has a studio, and... and so I was very much involved.

And it was Mike Frankovich who introduced me to... to Mike Todd on Around the World in 80 Days, and the associate producer was probably the most famous art director in the world, a man called William Cameron Menzies, who had designed Gone with the Wind.

And if you think, that there were about three or four different directors, but Menzies stayed on the picture, and he had sketched out every frame of that film. And that's when Selznick decided to give Menzies the credit of production designed by William Cameron Menzies.

And he was my boss, or he was sort of associate producer on Around the World, and I learnt a lot from him. Unfortunately, by this time he was an alcoholic, which is not surprising, working for Mike Todd. And... but, you know, I was just a... a young designer with Letitzia in a flat in Bond Street, you know, and every time Bill Cameron Menzies appeared, a bottle of J&B Scotch disappeared, you know.

It became quite expensive... situation.

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: Around the World in 80 Days, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Gone with the Wind, Bond Street, Michael Todd, MJ Frankovich, William Cameron Menzies, David Selznick

Duration: 2 minutes, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011