Ken Adam to be honored by American Film Institute

Ken Adam

Ken Adam

Ken Adam, the long-time film production designer who died in March, is being honored by the American Film Institute with a film series that runs starting July 9 and into September.

AFI is showing a range of films reflecting Adam’s work, including all seven James Bond films he designed for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

In addition, the series includes The Ipcress File, the first Harry Palmer film that was produced by Saltzman, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the children’s movie based on an Ian Fleming novel that Broccoli produced.

The movies are being shown at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The dates are as follows. The movies are shown at different times of day and for full details, CLICK HERE.

July 9, 11, 13: Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond film, where Adam’s sets made the movie look more expensive than it really was.

July 10, 12, 14: Goldfinger (1964). Adam, with no access to the interior of Fort Knox, created one from his imagination.

July 16, 20: Thunderball (1965). The Biggest Bond of All and Adam’s work was one of the reasons.

July 17: You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film to toss out an Ian Fleming plot and substitute its own. Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set was a major highlight.

July 23, 26: Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

July 25: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

July 31: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Michael Todd-produced film version of the Jules Verne novel starring David Niven, with various stars making cameo appearances.  Adam is credited as an art director and his name is spelled Adams. The movie’s associate producer was William Cameron Menzies, who helped pioneer the concept of a production designer responsible for the overall look of a film.

Aug. 6, 10: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Adam returned after a two-picture absence from the Bond series. His work included the interior of what’s supposed to be a tanker that swallows nuclear submarines.

Aug. 7, 9: Moonraker (1979), Adam’s farewell to the 007 series, where his contributions included a space station.

Aug. 13, 16: The Ipcress File (1965), Adam demonstrated he could handle a more realistic spy film.

Aug. 20, 24: Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick-directed film where Adam won an Academy Award.

Aug. 26, 30, Sept. 1: Night of the Demon (1957)

Aug. 27, 28, 30, Sept. 1: Gideon of Scotland Yard (1958)

Sept. 2, 3, 5: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Who better to design a flying car than Ken Adam?

Sept. 3, 6, 8: The Last of Shiela (1973)

Ken Adam's "war room" set from Dr. Strangelove

Ken Adam’s “war room” set from Dr. Strangelove

Sept. 9, 10, 12, 13, 14: Dr. Strangelove (1964): Adam passed on the second Bond film, From Russia With Love, to work with Kubrick on the nuclear war satire. Adam’s biggest contribution was the War Room set, which has inspired production designers and art directors ever since.

Sept. 10: The Madness of King George, which resulted in Adam’s second Academy Award.


Ken Adam, who created 007’s film world, dies

Ken Adam

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, who helped create the film world of James Bond, has died at 95, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

Adam’s official title was production designer, a duty he held on seven 007 films, starting with Dr. No in 1962 and concluding with Moonraker in 1979.

Part of Ken Adam's handiwork on Dr. No

Part of Ken Adam’s handiwork on Dr. No

With Dr. No, a modestly budgeted film, Adam’s set designs made the movie look more expensive than it really was. An example was a large room where Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) converses with an unseen Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).

In a John Cork-directed documentary, Adam described the style as “slightly ahead of its time.” Dr. No’s lair looked fantastic, yet had antiques.

Dr. No was no fluke. The Adam-designed interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger was attention grabbing. Ian Fleming’s novel never made it inside the U.S. gold depository. Adam made it almost dream like. You could understand why Auric Goldfinger lusted after gold.

Sean Connery may have breathed film life into Fleming’s creation. Ken Adam gave the film Bond a world to inhabit.

Also, over time, Adam altered his style. His early Bond films had rectangle-shaped sets. With The Spy Who Loved Me, he introduced more curved shapes.

Finally, as the Bond films expanded in scope and budget, Adam’s job took on aspects of a construction boss.

The SPECTRE volcano base in You Only Live Twice cost as much or more than all of Dr. No. Its construction at Pinewood Studios caused “hardened” film professionals to give up their lunch hours to watch it being built, sound man Norman Wanstall said in one of the Cork-directed documentaries.

Even more ambitious was The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring the inside of a tanker that swallowed nuclear submarines. Spy got Adam an Oscar nomination. He probably would have won if the movie had come out in 1976. Instead, it came out in 1977 and was up against the first Star Wars film, which got the Oscar in the category.

Adam’s style had a huge impact, not only with other spy films of the 1960s, but well into the 21st century. 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness had an homage to Adam’s “War Room” set from 1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

A giant in his field has left us. But Adam leaves behind an enormous legacy, not only with the Bond series but many other films.

UPDATE: Here’s the tweet Roger Moore sent out about Ken Adam’s passing.

UPDATE (March 13): It took a few days but The New York Times has come out with A VERY DETAILED OBITUARY for Ken Adam.

Also, here’s the tweet from the official 007 account that announced Adam’s death.

Our Man in Havana’s (sort of) 007 in-joke

Our Man in Havana

We’re still catching up with TCM’s marathon of spy films from Jan. 25. Anyway, in the Carol Reed-directed Our Man in Havana, there’s a sort-of in-joke to James Bond films.

Considering the movie was released in late 1959, before the 007 film series debuted with Dr. No in 1962, that’s a mean trick.

Here’s the explanation. Our Man in Havana’s crew included Syd Cain, who was the movie’s assistant art director. Cain, of course, worked on a number of Bond films, including as art director of Dr. No and From Russia With Love and production designer of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Our Man in Havana involves Jim Wormold (Alec Guiness), a seller of vacuum clearners who’s recruited to be the British Secret Service’s man in pre-revolution Havana. Wormold, after unsuccessfully trying to recruit a spy network, begins making stuff up — and London is buying (literally) every bit of it.

Wormold is now considered so important that British Intelligence is assigning him support personnel, including a secretary (Maureen O’Hara). One of Wormold’s fictional agents supposedly flew over a secret Cuban installation and saw a secret weapon (really a drawing of a vacuum cleaner). Now, there’s pressure from London to get photographs of it.

Wormold, in trying to decide his next step, happens to see a comic strip in a newspaper. It’s called Rock Kent and is supposed to be by Syd Cain. (It’s on the top of the page, just above Blondie.)

This particular strip depicts Rock crashing into the side of a mountain. “We shall hear no more of Captain Rock Kent!” reads the caption accompanying the drawing of the plane crashing.

This gives Wormold an idea how to solve his problem. Of course, things get more complicated.

Regardless, it’s an amusing moment for viewers familiar with the early 007 movies.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No, Part III

Terence Young

Terence Young

Film Finances Inc. had agreed to provide a “completion bond” for Dr. No and provide contingency funding to ensure the first James Bond film would be finished.

However, because of continuing cost overruns, Film Finances under its agreement with Eon Productions and United Artists, exercised its right to take over responsibility for the production as it began post production.

According to the 2011 book, A Bond for Bond, published by Film Finances, such an option was supposed to be a last resort. In 1962, Film Finances would end up doing it three times on United Artists movies, including Tom Jones, another film plagued by overruns.

Dr. No producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and director Terence Young would retain responsibility for creative decisions. Film Finances, however, now controlled the purse strings, author Charles Drazin wrote. The book reproduces documents in the archives of Film Financing.

Post-production included some additional film shooting to complete the movie, including shots of Bond (Sean Connery) in a shaft in Dr. No.’s headquarters, the agent laying on his hotel room when a tarantula arrives and two men exiting a hatch from the “dragon” that patrolled Crab Key.

Originally, these shots were to be performed over two days. With Film Finances now in control, they were done in a single day, April 26, 1962.

Other matters needed to be resolved. There had been 7,000 pounds (almost $20,000 at an exchange rate of $2.80 to the pound) in cost overruns for sets — overages that production designer Ken Adam had anticipated and informed Saltzman about.

Film Finances agreed not to force repayment of the set overruns. In return, Danjaq SA, the holding company for Eon Productions, agreed on April 10, 1962 to grant 5 percent of Dr. No’s profits to Film Finances.

However, Danjaq had the option to buy back Film Finances’ profit participation  for the sum of the 7,000 pounds (for the set overruns) plus an additional 2,500 pounds after Film Finances recovered all money advanced to finance the production. Danjaq ended up exercising the option, Drazin wrote. A copy of the agreement is on page 94 of the book.

Another issue was Terence Young’s compensation. The director had agreed to defer as much as 10,000 of his 15,000 pound fee. More than 8,600 pounds was to be withheld from Young until it “had been earned back at the box office,” Drazin wrote. (page 85)

This didn’t  make Young happy.

“But I do feel, and I feel this most strongly, that Film Finances have behaved very shabbily to put it mildly,” the director wrote in a letter to his lawyer (pages 95-98).

“When I got back from Jamaica, I expected to get a medal for what I had accomplished,” Young wrote. “I have never in my life worked so hard, I have never on any location film had to put up with so many difficulties, and at the end I got no thanks whatsoever but was told Cubby and Harry made a mistake in ever taking me.”

On page 99 and 100, there’s a copy of a memo by Film Finances executive Robert Garrett about Young.

“I do not dispute that Terence Young probably worked very hard on location, but I do suggest he is a director who seems quite incapable of ever making compromises when things do not go smoothly.”

In the end, Dr. No’s final budget was more than 392,022 pounds (almost $1.1 million), according to a copy dated Jan. 11, 1963 filed by associate producer Stanley Sopel to Film Finances (pages 103-106). The sources of the money were 322,069 pounds from a Bank of America loan (the budget before overruns), 10, 063 pounds from United Artists and 59,890 pounds from Film Finances.

Film Finances, in a letter to Eon dated Jan. 21, 1964, said as of Dec. 31, 1963, it had been paid back with interest. From that point forward, author Drazin wrote, Eon would not utilize Film Finances’ services for Bond films.

 Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No Part II

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

The first day of filming on Dr. No had a bad omen.

Principal photography began Jan. 16, 1962 at the Kingston, Jamaica, airport. Jack Lord, playing CIA agent Felix Leiter, had been scheduled to arrive Jan. 14 and report for work at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 16.

Because of travel complications, Lord couldn’t get to Kingston until 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 16 and didn’t arrive on the set until 2:45 p.m. Sean Connery, playing Bond, and John Kitzmiller, playing Quarrel, had arrived at 8:30 a.m.

“Because of the sun angle, we lost his first shots,” production manager L.C. Rudkin wrote on a unit progress report on Jan. 16, referring to Lord. The Dr. No crew would have to return to the airport the following day, putting the production of the first James Bond film one-half day behind schedule on its very first day.

That report is one of the various documents in the 2011 book A Bond for Bond, describing the travails of Dr. No’s production. The book, by Charles Drazin, focuses on the contributions of Film Finances Inc., the company that provided the “completion bond,” ensuring the movie would be finished.

Nor was that the only delay the Dr. No unit would see.

Day 4: “Bad light and generator breakdown,” according to a summary of location shooting after principal photography concluded. “Nearly day lost yet we shot -” Day 6: “Rough seas made abandonment necessary. Had to move over to location 15 miles.” Day 17: “Rough seas and two locations with retakes.” Day 20: “Rained nearly all day – shot in rain.” Day 24: “Whole beach had to be rebuilt because of hurricane in night, yet we shot.” Day 25: The “dragon” broke down and a safety winch also broke down, causing another half-day delay.

By the end of location shooting, according to this summary, 10 to 12 days of work had been lost and two sequences (“Interior Hotel Foyer” and the interior of Playdell-Smith’s office) would have to be filmed when the production moved to Pinewood Studios in England.

The report also contained this passage: “It is questionable if any other major film, with a similar budget, had ever accomplished the feat of shooting on 22 major different sets in 23 days. This practically Television or ‘B’ picture scheduling, but on this film it was necessary, and had to be done.”

Trouble was also brewing at Pinewood. Production designer Ken Adam had written a letter to Film Finances that the budget for sets was adequate. It wasn’t.

In a Feb. 1, 1962 letter to co-producer Harry Saltzman, and cc’d to his partner Albert R. Broccoli, Adam said set construction, props and set dressing would be more than budgeted. “This is merely a note to make quite certain you have realised this,” Adam wrote Saltzman.

On Feb. 18, Saltzman wrote Film Finances executive Robert Garrett to reassure him about cost overruns — which were exceeding the financing for contingencies that Garrett’s company had provided.

“I must say that (director) Terence Young has behaved tremendously well, despite all our misgivings and I honestly must say that none of the hold-ups have been due to his proclivity from procrastination,” Saltzman wrote. At the same time, the producer wrote that Young still has a “grande seigneur” lifestyle. “He has spent money personally like water.”

Saltzman added, “In spite of all the ulcer-making frustrating situations and the invasion of a good part of our contingency fund, the stuff we have shot here is tremendously impressive and I think well worth our troubles.”

Garrett wasn’t reassured. In a March 16, 1962 letter to Saltzman, the executive outlined budget overruns for publicity, music, studio rentals, insurance and other expenses and said it appeared the pace of production had slowed during filming at Pinewood.

“I must ask you and Cubby to take all possible measures of economy and above all, to see that the schedule position does not deteriorate further,” Garrett wrote. “From the progress to date in the studio we had the impression Terence Young has lost his earlier sense of urgency.”

According to author Draznin, Dr. No had exceeded its budget by 57,027 pounds (almost $160,000) for the week ending March 23, 1962. Principal photography finally ended April 3. By that time, Film Finances took an action it normally considered a last resort.

Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

NEXT: Film Finances takes control of Dr. No.


Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No Part I

Dr. No poster

Dr. No poster

Squabbles over money, production delays and the exchange of terse words.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film? No. Dr. No, the first.

In 2011, Film Finances Inc., which specializes in “completion bonds” that ensure movies get finished, published A Bond for Bond. The book presented the company’s history with Dr. No, including reproducing memos and production budgets.

For a fee, Film Financing, founded in 1950, guarantees completion of a movie, including providing contingency financing. With Dr. No, Film Financing ended up taking financial control of the film as principal photography ended and post-production began. That meant all expenditures from that point forward had to be approved by Film Financing.

According to the book, written by Charles Drazin and reprinted in 2014, Film Finances had previously provided completion bonds to earlier movies produced separately by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. While the new partners had a distribution deal with United Artists, Film Finances would provide the completion bond for the first Bond.

As Film Finances considered the project, executives were enthusiastic but had concerns.

A Dec. 16, 1961 memo analyzing the movie’s budget questioned whether shooting schedule was too optimistic and whether director Terence Young could meet it.

John Croydon, a consultant for Film Finances, wrote, “I must confess to alarm at the combination of Broccoli, Saltzmann (sic) and Young in charge of the picture, especially as (L.C.) Rudkin, although a good PM (production manager) is probably not the strongest controller of people of this type.”

Croydon wrote from first-hand experience. He had been associate producer on the 1960 Saltzman-produced film The Entertainer.

Dr. No had an initial budget of 317,399 pounds (almost $889,000 at an exchange rate of $2.80 per pound), later revised to 322,096 (almost $901,800), with 23,199 pounds in contingency funds.

Various crew members, including Young and production director Ken Adam, wrote brief letters to Film Finances saying the budget was adequate for the movie. Harry Saltzman wrote a similar but more detailed letter.

Young was slated to receive a fee of 15,000 pounds ($42,000), but agreed to defer 10,000 pounds of it into an escrow account. This would cause tension later.

The pre-production documents in A Bond for Bond also show the distinguished British director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth worked on Dr. No for a day. On Dec. 21, 1961, Unsworth photographed screen tests of four actresses contending for the role of Miss Taro, including eventual winner Zena Marshall.

In January 1962, principal photography on Dr. No began. Before it was over, executives at Film Finances would make a move the company rarely made because of financial concerns.

Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

NEXT: Dr. No falls a half-day behind schedule on its first day.


The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part III: Thunderball

Thunderball poster in 1965

Thunderball poster in 1965

By Nicolas Suszczyk
In 1964’s Goldfinger, SPECTRE took a break while James Bond fought the title villain’s attempt to irradiate Fort Knox. But the organization made a spectacular comeback in 1965’s Thunderball.

At the very beginning of the fourth Bond adventure, we see the secret agent at the funeral of SPECTRE’s number Six, Colonel Jacques Boitier (as the name is spelled in the Richard Maibaum-John Hopkins script although it’s spelled Bouvar in other reference sources). But the criminal is actually alive and planning to escape from the eyes of a vengeful Bond, because Boitier “murdered two of my colleagues.”

Right there there is a fact that ties Thunderball with the upcoming 2015 film: 007 visiting the funeral of a SPECTRE agent, a man he has presumably killed. There’ll be, as the film follows, even more ties between the Sam Mendes film and the Bond adventure celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

After the main titles, The organization conducts a meeting led by its shadowy Number One, whose name isn’t yet revealed but is also played by Anthony Dawson and voiced by Eric Pohlman, as in From Russia with Love. SPECTRE moved from a yacht to a modern office in Paris, hidden inside a non-profit organization assisting stateless persons.

The man who leads us inside this hideout is none other than SPECTRE’s Number Two, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi, dubbed by Robert Rietty). The organization is almost like a religion to him. He would later kiss the octopuss ring that identifies him as a member. Largo is very appreciated by his leader, charging him with “our NATO project,” aka the “most ambitious project SPECTRE has ever undertaken.”

The organization has made a lot of progress between From Russia with Love and Thunderball. It has conducted an incredible range of operations throughout the world, including the killing of an antimatter expert, a train robbery and a drug narcotic operation that grosses a lot less than expected because Number Nine has kept with some… extra money. Number One will decide on an “appropriate action” for the culprit: activating the electric chair where the double-crossing agent was sitting.

“SPECTRE is a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies in the absolute integrity of its members,” the leader points out.

Number Two then explains his NATO project: to hijack the Vulcan airplane and stealing its atomic bombs, threatening to detonate them over the U.S. and the U.K. if the organization demands (including a ransom of £100 million, or $280 million) are not met.

The project is indeed ambitious when compared to the toppling of rockets and stealing a decoding machine to pit Russia against Britain, as seen in the two previous films featuring SPECTRE (Dr. No and From Russia With Love).

The organization also expanded with schemes and operatives from around the world. Just remember how Number One briefed only three of his agents in From Russia with Love. In Thunderball, he goes on to conduct a meeting with more than 10 members.

Emilio Largo is, of course, the primary SPECTRE figure in the story. He’s not only giving orders, but he also joins the action on land and under water with his army of frogmen. He has a hand-to-hand combat with 007, unlike the leader, who supervises the operation from the shadows.

In From Russia with Love, there was no real villain since Red Grant was just a trained assassin under the organization’s payroll. On the other side, Largo is a true believer of the cause, playing it cool while going to the Nassau casinos or going out with his lover Domino, but being as ruthless as his employer when he has to order someone’s death. He has the “integrity” a member of the “fraternity” Number One was talking about.

Thunderball provides the audience with the first memorable femme-fatale of the Bond franchise: Fiona Volpe, played by Luciana Paluzzi.

Unlike Tatiana Romanova, the Russian clerk the organization tried to use as a bait to terminate agent 007, Fiona is a fearless woman that, much like Bond himself, can also use her body as a weapon. Just like Largo, she’s also a true believer who proudly wears the SPECTRE octopus ring.

Fiona is also the first woman who can sleep with 007 without being turned to the “side of right and virtue,” like Tatiana and Pussy Galore before. She brags about this at one point. “What a blow it must have been. You having a failure,” she says as her accomplices Vargas and Janni hold 007 at gunpoint.

As complicated as it seemed, James Bond was able to thwart SPECTRE’s most ambitious project and Number Two’s life was pierced by a harpoon bolt shot by Domino, avenging her brother’s death.

SPECTRE would resurface once again less than two years later in You Only Live Twice, where the mysterious Number One will introduce himself to a captive Bond.