Adam, Ken

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Art Director. Nationality: British. Born: Klaus Adam in Berlin, Germany, February 1921; emigrated to the United Kingdom, 1934. Education: Attended Le Collège Français, Berlin; Craigend Park School, Edinburgh; St. Paul's School, London; Bartlett School of Architecture, University of London, 1937–39. Military Service: Served in Pioneer Corps and as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Career: Articled with architectural firm C. W. Glover and Partners; 1947—draftsman on first film, This Was a Woman; then art director and production designer. Awards: British Academy Award, for Dr. Strangelove, 1964, and The Ipcress File, 1965; Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Direction, for Barry Lyndon, 1975, and The Madness of King George, 1994; Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, 1995. Address: c/o The Mirisch Agency, 10100 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067, U.S.A.

Films as Art Director/Production Designer:


Soho Incident (Spin a Dark Web) (Sewell); Child in the House(de Lautour and Endfield)


Around the World in Eighty Days (Anderson) (co); TheDevil's Pass (Conyers); Night of the Demon (Curse of theDemon) (J. Tourneur)


Battle of the V1 (Missile from Hell; Unseen Heroes) (Sewell)(designs)


Gideon of Scotland Yard (Gideon's Day) (Ford); Beyond ThisPlace (Web of Evidence) (Cardiff); The Angry Hills (Aldrich);10 Seconds to Hell (Aldrich); The Rough and the Smooth(Portrait of a Sinner) (Siodmak); In the Nick (Hughes);John Paul Jones (Farrow) (co); Ben-Hur (Wyler) (research)


Let's Get Married (Scott); The Trials of Oscar Wilde (TheGreen Carnation) (Hughes)


The Hellions (Annakin) (designs)


Sodoma e Gomorra (Sodom and Gomorrah) (Leone and Aldrich); Dr. No (Young); In the Cool of the Night (Stevens)


Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick); Woman of Straw (Dearden);Goldfinger (Hamilton); The Long Ships (Cardiff) (designs)


The Ipcress File (Furie); Thunderball (Young)


Funeral in Berlin (Hamilton)


You Only Live Twice (Gilbert)


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hughes)


Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Ross)


The Owl and the Pussycat (Ross)


Sleuth (Mankiewicz)


The Last of Sheila (Ross)


Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)


The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Ross)


Salon Kitty (Madam Kitty) (Brass); The Spy Who Loved Me(Gilbert)


Moonraker (Gilbert)


Pennies from Heaven (Ross) (+ assoc pr)


King David (Beresford); Agnes of God (Jewison)


Crimes of the Heart (Beresford)


The Deceivers (Meyer)


Dead-Bang (Frankenheimer)


The Freshman (Bergman); Dinosaurs (Meyer)


The Doctor (Haines)


Undercover Blues (Ross)


Addams Family Values (Sonnenfeld)


Boys on the Side (Ross); The Madness of King George(Hytner)


Bogus (Jewison)


In & Out (Oz)


The Out-of-Towners (Weisman)


The White Hotel

Films as Draftsman and Assistant or Associate Art Director:


This Was a Woman (Whelan)


Lucky Mascot (The Brass Monkey) (Freeland); Third TimeLucky (Parry); The Queen of Spades (Dickinson); Obsession (The Hidden Room) (Dmytryk)


Dick Barton Strikes Back (Parry); Three Men and a Girl


Your Witness (Eye Witness) (Montgomery)


The Crimson Pirate (Siodmak)


The Master of Ballantrae (Keighley); The Intruder (Hamilton); Star of India (Lubin)


Helen of Troy (Wise)


By ADAM: book—

"Moonraker," "Strangelove," and Other Celluloid Dreams, London, 1999.

By ADAM: articles—

"Designing Sets for Action," in Films and Filming (London), August 1956.

Screen International (London), 12 February 1977.

Positif (Paris), March 1977.

Cinéma (Paris), January 1978.

Film Comment (New York), January/February 1982.

American Film, February 1991.

EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), May 1994.

"Private View," in Sight and Sound (London), 1 September 1999.

On ADAM: articles—

Hudson, Roger, "Three Designers," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1964–65.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), 1965.

Le Film Français (Paris), 1976.

National Film Theatre Booklet (London), October/November 1979.

American Film (Los Angeles), February 1991.

Köhler, Margret, "Wenn Film-Bilder Geschichte machen. Der Filmarchitekt Ken Adam," in Film-dienst (Cologne), 15 February 1994.

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Born Klaus Adam in Berlin in 1921, Ken Adam emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1934. He studied architecture and became a freelance architect and interior designer. In 1947 he joined the film industry as a draftsman. An art director since 1948 and production designer since 1959, Adam has won awards for the low-key spy thriller The Ipcress File and the period adaptations Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George, though it is his innovative and spectacular work on the James Bond adventure-fantasies for which he will be best remembered.

Adam's James Bond films characterized the modern look in the 1960s—slick, inventive, filled with modern gadgets and smooth, cold, clean surfaces. There was a love of the exotic with a dazzling display of conspicuous consumption. Colors were pure and bright. Everything gleamed and sparkled with movement. Plastic and steel were not only stylish, they were considered futuristic, and the future, people felt, "was now." The "back to nature" movement would have to wait till later in the decade. The only real things in the Bond movies were the mirrors on the floor. Meanwhile, Bond fans reveled in Adam's influential creations as the designer put the "mod" in modern.

To accommodate his mammoth designs for the Bond films, which ranged from a recreation of the interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger to an underground space launch in You Only Live Twice, a special sound stage had to be built at Pinewood Studios where the films were made. It remains the largest single sound stage in the world.

Adam's ability to "come to the rescue" with ingenuity on a budget evidenced itself early in his career when the producer of Night of the Demon called him in at the last minute to render visible the titular beast that director Jacques Tourneur had insisted on keeping unseen in the belief that such things were best left to the audience's imagination. Adam responded economically with a design based on medieval woodcuts; shown only in a few brief closeups, his demon remains one of the most fearsome looking monsters in movie history. Years later, Adam applied similar ingenuity to bringing the macabre world of cartoonist Charles Addams to life on the screen in Addams Family Values.

Adam performed similar miracles on Dr. Stangelove, Stanley Kubrick's black comedy about a nuclear strike. Denied cooperation by the U.S. military due to the film's controversial theme, Kubrick relied on Adam to create everything from the interiors of the planes that drop the bombs to the "war room" where the U.S. president and Russian ambassador play cat and mouse with the fate of the world. Adam's "war room" set centered on a giant oval table with an ominous overhanging fixture that looked suspiciously like a nuclear mushroom cloud. This dramatically darkened room was lit only by this overhanging fixture and the electric arrows on the numerous maps that lined the walls, indicating the paths of nuclear destruction. The people surrounding the table seemed insignificant in scale, as individuals are to those who power the giant war machine.

Adam also designed Sleuth, an entertaining English thriller. One of its main characters, a successful mystery writer, lives to play games of physical and psychological sleight-of-hand. The story takes place at his home in the country, its rooms filled by games, puzzles, and mechanical toys; its garden is landscaped as an elaborate maze. It seemed the perfect place for a crime, a crime of the writer's own design. This wittily plotted tale shows Adam at his cleverest.

The Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon was perhaps Adam's magnum opus. Every detail displayed a painstaking job of period reconstruction, each celluloid frame worthy of Gainsborough or Hogarth. His work on the later The Madness of King George showed equal devotion to detail. After the success of The Madness of King George, in the late 1990s Adam has been involved in disappointing mainstream comedies such as In & Out and The Out-Of-Towners. Set in contemporary America, neither film can have tested his considerable skills. Such projects are typical of the kind of films Adam has interspersed with more demanding work throughout his career. His next film release will be the rather more challenging The White Hotel, adapted from the D.M. Thomas novel of the same name and directed by Bosnian Emir Kusturica. How ironic it is that Adam, who leaped to prominence with his space-age designs for the hugely successful James Bond films, would receive his only two Oscars to date for films set in the far distant past.

—Edith C. Lee, updated by John McCarty, further updated by Chris Routledge