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The race to complete The Trials of Oscar Wilde


The Trials of Oscar Wilde
Ken Adam Artist
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I did a number of films after the Ford picture, and then was contacted by Cubby Broccoli to do... two films with Tony Newley, and then a very important film, which turned out to be a very important film for me and for them, the Trials of Oscar Wilde, with Peter Finch. And it was one of those idiotic things that another company made the same film, with... Robert Morley, but not in colour. In black and white, and so there was, like a war on between the two studios on who would come out first. I did it at ABC in Boreham Wood in Elstree, and... we had some pretty exciting sets. You know, the Café Royal, St James’s Theatre... and as usual I was running out of money, because a) to keep it in colour, and the Café Royal was a big set, and St James’s Theatre was a big set. And we came to the end of the picture and I still had a big set, which was the Marquess of Queensberry’s castle in Scotland, after the funeral of his son, and I didn’t have enough money. So I took all the, sort of, classical elements from the St James’s Theatre, and like, over doors and double doors, put them on both sides to make a room. I had a big fireplace at one end and on the other end I designed a French window, and I treated the whole set in two colours only. The main colour was terracotta, and all the doors and the fireplace and desks and windows were black, and the floor was like Italian Sienna marble. So I could do it for very little money because most of it was paint, and I also insisted that the actors were all dressed more or less alike in black funeral sort of dresses, and it became a very effective scene. I mean, apart from quite a number of other scenes.

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: Trials of Oscar Wilde, ABC studio, Boreham Wood, Elstree, Café Royal, St James's Theatre, John Ford, Albert R Broccoli, Anthony Newley, Peter Finch, Robert Morley

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 September 2011