On March 10th 2016, Sir Ken Adam passed away in London, aged 95. The world of movie making and especially the world of James Bond mourns the loss of one of its most talented production designers who has influenced the style of the Bond movies like barely anyone else. His ground breaking set designs include seven James Bond films: Dr No (1962), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). In his career, he won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, 1975 for Barry Lyndon and 1994 for The Madness of King George and was nominated three more times. He is survived by his wife Letizia, to whom the team of Commanderbond.net wishes to express their sincerest condolences.
Sir Ken Adam was born on February 4th 1921 as Klaus Hugo Adam in Berlin-Tiergarten. He was the third of four children of a wealthy Jewish family who ran a large sports and fashion store. In 1934, the family fled from Nazi terror to London. In 1937, Adam joined the Bartlett School of Architecture, following the advice of art director and Academy Award winner Vincent Korda who told him that this would be the best way to start a career as a movie architect.
He took a break from his education in 1941 and joined the British Royal Air Force to become a pilot and fight the Nazis in his native country, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be treated as a prisoner of war but killed as a traitor in case he was captured by the enemy.
In 1947, he became a British citizen and adopted the first name Ken. Soon after that, he got his first job in the movie business as a draughtsman at Twickenham Studios and started working his way up in the industry. Through his work on Captain Horatio Hornblower in 1951, he made himself a bit of a name as an expert for historic ships which lead to him working on The Crimson Pirate in 1951. While shooting this movie on the Italian island of Ischia, he met his future wife Letizia who was a model at that time. They married a year later and Letizia would become his lifelong source of inspiration.
In 1956, his work on Around the World in Eighty Days gained him his first Oscar nomination (with Ross Dowd and James W. Sullivan). His other two unsuccessful nominations were for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Addams Family Values (1993). Ironically, four of his five nominations (including his two wins) were for historic set designs and not his futuristic, Bauhaus influenced style that made him famous.
His work on The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) brought him in contact with producer Albert R. Broccoli, who would later hire him to do the set designs for the first James Bond movie Dr No. In the years to come, Adam would design some of the 007 franchise’s most iconic sets and elements: Dr No’s underground lair (including the famous, minimalistic “Tarantula room”), the interior of Fort Knox and of course the gadget-ladden Aston Martin DB5 for Goldfinger, the underwater vehicles and the Disco Volante hydrofoil boat for Thunderball, the famous hollowed-out volcano for You Only Live Twice, the moon Buggy and Blofeld’s lair for Diamonds are Forever, the tanker interior for The Spy who Loved Me for which the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios was specially built and of course the space station and the Space Shuttle control room for Moonraker. Additionally, he was responsible for the production design of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (and the car itself), based on the book by Ian Fleming.
Even though Adam’s famous credo was to design the sets “larger than life”, many of his creations were taken for real by the audience. This also happened with one of his most famous sets, the “War Room” for Dr. Strangelove. No story about Ken Adam would be complete without this anecdote: when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States he demanded to see this room and was slightly disappointed that the equivalent didn’t even remotely look like what he saw in that movie. Despite the great result, Adam vowed to never work again with Strangelove director Stanley Kubrick, as his erratic way of working led to the production designer suffering from not one but two nervous breakdowns. Luckily, Adam broke this vow to work with Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, for which he won his first Academy Award in 1975.
He won his second Academy Award for The Madness of King George in 1994. In 2003, Ken Adam received a knighthood for his services to the film industry and Anglo-German relations. In 2012, Ken Adam donated his entire archives to the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, including many drawings, photographs and memorabilia (among them his two Oscar statues) under the condition that the archives would be made publicly accessible. The process of digitizing all these materials and publishing them as an online archive is still in the works and has been postponed from March 2015 to mid-2016. Sadly, Ken Adam didn’t live to see this last project being finished.
2016 is already shaping up to become known as a year of sad losses. This past week has been considerably cruel in taking away two of the most accomplished men of our time, two major characters whose influence on our culture will go far beyond their lifetime.
On 08. March Sir George Martin passed away at the age of 90. His merits as music producer have been lauded for decades and will no doubt continue to be praised. He has been right at the epicentre of the music business in the last century, putting his mark on pop culture – before the term was even used – like only a very few before or after him. His score of Roger Moore’s 007 debut Live and Let Die and the spectacular main title song remain a favourite of the entire series with many fans, me included. As he also produced Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger he is behind two of the most popular classic Bond songs.
On 10. March Sir Ken Adam died at the age of 95. His influence on production design is already legendary, his work is so iconic that it is now a central piece in any class of film/motion picture design. He donated his considerable archive with countless sketches and storyboards to the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, the major German film archive. Since I’m a fellow countryman of Sir Ken I’d particularly like to express my thanks for his services in freeing Europe and my – our – home country.
CommanderBond.net team and members hereby express our condolences to the families.
Gentlemen, we salute you.
CommanderBond.net team and members hereby congratulate Sam Smith on winning an Oscar for Writing’s On The Wall. Now it is written there: Best Original Song.
After the spectacular success that was SPECTRE – The Motion Picture and in preparation to the spectacular success that SPECTRE – The Auction will no doubt turn out to be (just as SPECTRE – The DVD, SPECTRE – The Blueray(™) and SPECTRE – The Streaming Experience, amongst others…) there is one more spec-tacular event for fans to crave and rave about and for me to report to you. It’s SPECTRE – The Tour! Never heard of it? Why, it’s a secret, dummy; people are not supposed to hear about it!
That’s why it came as a sort of surprise to us when, contrary to all intentions and every rule of clandestine operational procedure, we finally did hear about it, though. Albeit too late for Glasgow, that was yesterday. And too late for Manchester, that was this morning. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, this time they really kept mum about it.
Anyway, here goes the schedule of the ballyhoo:
SPECTRE ON TOUR will stop at each of the following locations:
Monday 15th February – George Square, Glasgow (007 hours from 9am)
Tuesday 16th February – The Lowry Plaza, Manchester (8.30-11.30am); Centenary Square, Birmingham (2-6pm)
Wednesday 17th February – Churchill Way, Cardiff (007 hours from 9am)
Well, now you know when and where, only the what is still a bit nebulous, much like the spectral nature of the entertainment this is supposed to somehow secretly promote. By way of osmosis or something equally sticky…
SPECTRE – The Tour will bring to you a display with an Aston Martin DB10; a real, genuine, made-for-the-screen-only toy car for millionaires. Supposedly there is also some other small fry, I would have to research on that. Only since it’s already a bit late I suggest you just stop reading this piffle and go into the great outdoors, preferably in Birmingham or Cardiff and just find out for yourself.
Good luck with that…
From time to time even a 00-agent has to go beyond the vulgarities of casinos and roulette tables to make some serious money in style, all for the good cause of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), a number of other charities and the United Nations Mine Action Service. And what better way to do this than taking 24 absolutely unique lots – from EON as well as donations from Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes, Jesper Christensen, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli – to the halls of Christie’s to sell them off to the highest bidder?
Can’t think of any, really.
Of course there is a little, well, let’s call it hurdle, namely the price tag. Serious money here really does mean serious. On this occasion one of only two Aston Martin DB10 show cars will change hands, currently the only one to do so. It’s expected to earn the cause anything between 1 and 1.5 million sterling. So it will not surprise you to hear the live auction is an invitation-only affair, although bids by internet and telephone will be accepted. However, there also is to be an online-only auction from Tuesday 16 February to Tuesday 23 February where you can bid on 14 of the lots. For further information please visit Christie’s site here.
The life event will take place on 18 February at Christie’s London. If you think you belong into the relevant target audience – some of us do – and haven’t received yet your invitation you may want to contact your personal assistant at Christie’s and raise an eyebrow.
Oh, I almost forgot. There is of cause also a reason for this I should inform you about. The reason being that 18 February 2016 is a Thursday. What, you need more than that to spend a few million? How about that this event incidentally also is supposed to mark the release of SPECTRE in various trademarked formats, Blue-ray, DVD and whatnot. Now that should really open your cheque book.
Tremendous thanks to source “Surrie” for digging this up and letting us know.
As some Irishman – during an English adventure – once said, the wonders never cease. In fact 2016 starts with surprise after surprise; and by far not all of them are bad ones. After winning a Golden Globe a mere few days ago, to his own astonishment, Sam Smith supposedly may find himself once more caught off guard by today’s news. It seems that his main title song for SPECTRE, Writing’s On The Wall, has been found worthy of an Oscar nomination.
How is it possible Smith sings about things written on walls since the end of last September and nobody bothers to check out even once what it actually is that’s scribbled there? Turns out it might be a name…
Entirely unexpected and mostly out-of-the-blue Sam Smith’s main title song for SPECTRE, The Writing’s on the Wall, earned itself a Golden Globe yesterday evening. Smith himself said at the occasion he “genuinely didn’t think” he’d get this – and he certainly wasn’t alone in this belief. Be that as it may, CommanderBond.net crew and members hereby congratulate on this surprising turn of events. Here’s to you, Mr Smith!
A literary meditation by Jacques Stewart – cunningly presented out of sequence…
Contains huge spoilers. Of a book over thirty years old. Isn’t it terrible, that news about The Titanic? Bet you can’t guess who Darth Vader really is. I think I’ve drunk wine younger than this book. Once, with regret.
I’m thinking… Ronseal.
I haven’t succumbed to product placement (yet) but as I age, I dwell on how to keep wood. If none-the-wiser, or just aghast at the squalor of that joke, Ronseal is a creosote (this won’t get more exciting). Other brands are available but Ronseal stands out for possessing a bouquet that smacks-up dead quick dirt cheap, and having been advertised with the slogan “it does exactly what it says on the tin”, a phrase that has entered the wider lexicon, like those “Keep Calm” things – Keep Calm and Drop Dead – and “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and cultivate Type-2 diabetes”.
This springs to mind not through an urge to paint the fence – one engages the little people for that, how charming they are with their “vans” and their “views” – but because I hold a-mitt a 1987 Coronet UK paperback of For Special Services. It looks chewed. There’s a distinct – dog? – toothmark at the moment Bond eats a tuna sandwich and drinks Perrier. I might be blaming the hound unfairly; could have been me, enraged at this dumbing-down / plebbing-up of 007. There’s another incision just as Bond crams his gut with “chicken pie” and Apple Jonathan – presumably not Sir Jony Ive, although since Bill Gates gets an oblique reference in Role of Honour one can’t dismiss the thought. Fair’s fair, both meals are comforting beige stodge, so I might have been trying to join in. “Beige stodge” seems apt, somehow.
Back to the “point” – the selling (or selling out) of Gardner Bond. Can’t judge a book by its cover, say “they”. Codswallop: the cover has “James Bond” in letters larger than both title and author, there’s a silhouette of a dinner-jacketed man taking aim and the base has “007”, big and bold. Little else upon which to judge it, frankly. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The book has James Bond 007 in it, although moot whether it’s ectually Ken Spoon (or Ron Seal). For Special Services might be open to many criticisms – on their way, lovey – but terminal ambiguity is not one. There is nothing else this could be. Anyone spotting you reading it – once they’ve stopped pointing fingers and whispering (although that’s nothing to do with the book and you know it) – would be in no doubt about what it was; similar absence of doubt in their deciding to flee, chop-chop quick.
The back cover risks undermining this single-mindedness, instilling anxiety whether such tin-based-promise will come true. Things start “well”, boasting that Bond comes armed “with a new pair of Sykes-Fairburn commando daggers and a new Heckler & Koch VP70 hand gun”, as if that can impress non-mental people, and evidence of a burgeoning trend that hardware gets top billing. Still, the book delivers, narrating inanimate serial-numbered murder-things in greater detail than its characters. Possibly the point is that 007 is just an inanimate serially-numbered murder-thing too. Mr Gardner, you scamp. As if that wasn’t enough tedious name-checking of story-hijacking objects, the “turbo-charged silver SAAB 900” clanks back. The author’s note thanks SAAB (GB) Ltd for “proving that the James Bond SAAB really does exist” even if they don’t any more. Karma caught up with them. Because it wasn’t driving a frickin’ SAAB.