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My first Oscar nomination

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Michael Todd
Ken Adam Artist
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William Cameron Menzies, who was probably the greatest production designer – certainly in the United States – and it was the first time to... to be granted that title of production design, and he was associate producer on Around the World in 80 Days.

So I spent a lot of time with him, we both got on like a house on fire. And, unfortunately, he was a nervous wreck, because Todd was a monster really, you know. And that was a strange thing, that I seemed to be attracted to these monsters, because the first time I met Todd, he was at the Messel Suite at the Dorchester Hotel, he was half nude, because he'd just taken a shower. And he had somebody doing a manicure, he had a Japanese secretary, and he was sitting there like Napoleon, and Vincent Korda, who was a brilliant… brother of Alexander Korda was there to advise him where could he buy jewels for Liz Taylor, you know. And I saw this going on and he wouldn't let me, or Menzies, go away at nine, or ten; he ordered caviar, whatever we wanted, and we had to stay all night, you know, with this madman.

But it was... it was... exciting and at the time, it was before... before he married Liz, and he was living with Evelyn Keyes, the actress, and they didn't get on so well, and so I was involved in all that... thing going on, but he had a strange fascination. And when we shot Around the World in 80 Days he asked our production manager, who had some in... to Her Majesty, if he could shoot a sequence of the guards changing, and the courtyard of Buckingham Palace. And we got a very nice letter back from HM saying she would love to grant this to us, but if she granted it to us everybody else wants to do it, but she would give us the guards at Wellington Barracks. So… and, you know, these Todd-AO cameras were gigantic and they had this enormous frame. And I arrived there and... three cameras all setup on the outside to see the guards changing and then march out over to Buckingham Palace. And as they are marching out, Todd got the cameraman and operator to put one of those enormous Todd-AO cameras right in the centre of the gate, at Wellington Barracks. And, of course, they had to do a different manoeuvre to get that out... around the camera, you know. It was a terrible thing to do, but four bottles of Scotch sent to the officer commanding the guards dealt with it eventually. But with Todd you always had these sort of problems.

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: USA, Around the World in 80 Days, Dorchester Hotel, Buckingham Palace, Wellington Barracks, William Cameron Menzies, Michael Todd, Vincent Korda, Elizabeth Tylor, Evelyn Keyes, Her Majesty the Queen

Duration: 4 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011