Ken Adam (5 February 1921 – 10 March 2016)
One of the movie industry’s most accomplished and creative production designers, Ken Adam was responsible for some of the most iconic images seen on screens over the last sixty years. During World War II he was one of only three German-born pilots allowed to fly for the RAF (and was trained by Michael Rennie). After the war he began his career in the movie industry as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman (1948), a modest British crime drama starring Sonia Dresdel. From there he did a lot of uncredited work on movies as varied as Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949) and The Crimson Pirate (1952) before landing a job supporting the esteemed William Cameron Menzies as an art director on Mike Todd’s ambitious and lavish Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). Menzies inspired Adam to “forget my inhibitions and let myself go”. This proved to be wise counsel indeed, and Adam continued to work on lavish movie projects like Ben-Hur (1959) (albeit still uncredited).
With his career beginning to take off, and his work attracting significant notice, Adam struck gold with his work on The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), a movie that introduced him to producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. When Broccoli needed a production designer for a movie he was making about a spy created by Ian Fleming, he approached Adam, who took the job even though he felt he was “prostituting” himself. Dr. No (1962) proved to be the first of seven Bond movies Adam worked on, and each one earned him an increasing level of recognition, especially Blofeld’s volcano lair in You Only Live Twice (1967). But while his lasting association with the Bond movies cemented his reputation, Adam was equally adept at working with directors of the calibre of Stanley Kubrick, Herbert Ross and Norman Jewison. As his career progressed he won two Oscars – for Barry Lyndon (1975) and The Madness of King George (1994) – and in 2003 he was knighted. His style was always to marry the old and the new in ever more unusual ways, while somehow managing to retain a feeling for the now. He could be grandiose for Bond, and yet equally at home with something less visually dramatic, such as Agnes of God (1985). He was an original, a talented individual that producers and directors could always rely on to give them something unexpected, and unexpectedly brilliant… such as the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and how much more unexpectedly brilliant was that?
1 – Night of the Demon (1957)
2 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
3 – Goldfinger (1964)
4 – You Only Live Twice (1967)
5 – The Ipcress File (1965)
6 – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
7 – Barry Lyndon (1975)
8 – The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
9 – The Freshman (1990)
10 – The Madness of King George (1994)