ADG Perspective

May-June 2016

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66 P E R S P E C T I V E | M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 6 milestones Mr. Frayling is a writer and award-winning broadcaster who has published 20 books on art, design and popular culture—including several on Production Design and three about Ken Adam. He originally wrote this article for the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Above: Sir Ken was rarely seen without his signature cigar, especially while drawing. Opposite page, top to bottom: three of Sir Ken's ink and watercolor sketches, for GOLDFINGER, DR. STRANGELOVE and THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE respectively. SIR KEN ADAM 1917 – 2016 by Christopher Frayling Ken Adam, who died on March 10 shortly after his 95th birthday, was responsible for some of the grandest illusions in the history of the movies: the villain's headquarters, a mixture of Renaissance palazzo and high-tech laboratory, in Dr. No (1962); the huge, triangular Pentagon War Room with its giant poker table and light ring, in Dr. Strangelove (1964); the interior of Fort Knox, resembling a chrome-and-steel cathedral, in Goldfinger (1964); the missile launcher hidden beneath a lake and inside a Japanese volcano—at that time the largest set ever constructed in Europe—in You Only Live Twice (1967); the candlelit 18th century rooms—all from real country houses—in Barry Lyndon (1975); the weird gingerbread-gothic interiors belonging to Morticia and Gomez, in Addams Family Values (1993); and the mixture of the historical and the stylized, real locations and embellished ones, in The Madness of King George (1994). Hidden within his astonishing list of achievements are two Academy Awards ® (for Barry Lyndon and King George) and three additional Oscar ® nominations, two British Academy Awards and five further BAFTA nominations. The man responsible for designing all of them—a selection from the more than sixty-five films, and fifteen unrealized film projects, on which he worked between 1947 and 2002—was the only Production Designer ever honored with a knighthood. He was also credited by architects in the real world, such as Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind, as an inspiration and a hero. In the 1970s, a favorite film industry reply to the question, "Who is the real star of James Bond?" wasn't Sean Connery, George Lazenby or Roger Moore. It was Ken Adam. He designed seven of the Bonds between Dr. No and 1979's Moonraker. His biography is equally extraordinary. Born Klaus Adam, he spent his early childhood in 1920s Berlin, a city that, Mr. Adam later realized, formed the foundation of so much of his future education and ideas—especially the Bauhaus and Expressionist cinema. In 1934, at the age of 13, he immigrated with his family to England after conditions under the Nazis became intolerable for Jews; education in Edinburgh and London followed. It had been Art Director Vincent Korda who first encouraged Mr. Adam to consider a career in film design and to get an architectural background as the best preparation for this. So Mr. Adam enrolled in evening classes at the Bartlett School of Architecture; at the same time, while apprenticed to an architectural firm, he had his first encounters with some of the Bauhaus disciples in London.

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