Klaus Hugo 'Ken / Heinie' Adam


Berlin-born Sir Kenneth Adam, KB, OBE, arrived in England from Nazi Germany in 1934 when he was 12 years old. After leaving school he studied architecture at University College, London, and the Bartlett School of Architecture, before joining the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot in 1941. He and his brother Dennis were the first German-born pilots in the RAF, Dennis joining No. 183 Squadron in 1944, as part of the same Wing (No. 123) that his elder brother was flying in with No. 609 (West Riding) Squadron.


"I finished training and joined 609 Squadron on 1st October 1943, stationed at Lympne. In the meantime I had changed my Christian name from Klaus Hugo to Ken Adam, but everyone usually called me Heinie! I went straight on to Typhoons. Our job was basically to escort American bombers. On my first operation, I nearly ran out of fuel because my Typhoon wasn't fitted with long-range tanks. We were flying medium-level escort over France, and my engine had cut on main tanks, so I switched over to reserve, but I thought I had better call up the CO. He gave me a terrible bollocking: ' Reduce your revs and try to glide back to England'. Then as I was turning, I saw planes being attacked right and left of me. There were no enemy aircraft around, but there was a high-level escort of American fighters who had never seen a Typhoon, and they thought we were Focke-Wulf 190's, and so they just took a dive at us. And our squadron commander (S/Ldr Patric Glynn Thornton-Brown DFC) was shot down, along with a couple of others, and an American pilot in 609, a famous ice hockey player, Artie Ross, was also hit, though he managed to get back and force land somewhere on a beach. Then they sent Artie Ross to all the American fighter stations to show them a Typhoon, and I believe some pilots were later court-martialled. It was a terrible thing to happen, especially on your first operation." Adam was to typically sport an RAF moustache, though rather than growing it as an attempt to look older, as many did, it was instead to help disguise his 'Jewishness' in case of capture by German troops.


Postwar, Adam has become one of the most highly regarded and influential film set designers internationally and has been nominated for Oscars for art direction five times, winning two, with 'Barry Lyndon' and 'The Madness of King George'.

In 1947, Adam entered the British film industry making set drawings for 'This Was a Woman'. He rose rapidly from draughtsman to art director, having been assistant art director on 'The Queen of Spades', 'The Hidden Room', 'Your Witness', 'Captain Horatio Hornblower', 'The Crimson Pirate', and 'Helen of Troy', before becoming full art director for the European-based sequences of Mike Todd's 'Around the World in 80 Days', for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination for the winner of Best Picture for 1956. In 1962, Adam began work on Dr. No, the first in the series of James Bond films. From low-budget at the beginning to more lavish allowances during the 1970's, Adam was able to give greater rein to his creativity. Influenced by his studies in architecture, Adam's designs have resulted in some of the best-styled sets of modern cinema, including the acclaimed war room from Dr Strangelove, and, along with the cars used in the James Bond films, the all-time classic 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. His 1964 design of the vaults at Fort Knox in 'Goldfinger' came from his own imagination - access having been denied to him. So convincing was the design that it was commonly believed that the sequences had been shot on location.


In 1999 Adam designed the interior of Berlins millennium exhibition pavilion, and the Queens Birthday Honours list for 2003 included the following: Diplomatic Services - Knight Bachelor - Kenneth Hugo Adam, OBE, for services to the film industry and Anglo-German relations.




2001    Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures

1999    The Out-of-Towners - Production Designer

1997    In & Out - Production Designer

1996    Bogus - Production Designer

1995    Boys on the Side - Production Designer

1994    The Madness of King George - Production Designer

1993    Undercover Blues - Production Designer

1993    Addams Family Values - Production Designer

1991   Company Business - Production Designer

1991    The Doctor - Production Designer

1990    The Freshman - Production Designer

1989    Dead Bang - Production Designer

1988    The Deceivers - Production Designer

1986    Crimes of the Heart - Production Designer

1985    King David - Production Designer

1985    Agnes of God - Production Designer

1981    Pennies from Heaven - Associate Producer, Production Designer

1979    Moonraker - Production Designer

1977    The Spy Who Loved Me - Production Designer

1976    The Seven-Percent Solution - Production Designer

1975    Barry Lyndon - Production Designer

1975    Salon Kitty - Production Designer

1973    The Last of Sheila - Production Designer

1972    Sleuth - Production Designer

1971    Diamonds Are Forever - Production Designer

1970    The Owl and the Pussycat - Production Designer

1969   Goodbye, Mr. Chips - Production Designer

1968    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Production Designer

1967    You Only Live Twice - Production Designer

1966    Funeral in Berlin - Production Designer

1965    Thunderball - Production Designer

1965    The Ipcress File - Production Designer

1964    Goldfinger - Production Designer

1964    Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - Production Designer

1964    Woman of Straw - Production Designer

1963    In the Cool of the Day - Production Designer

1962    Dr. No - Production Designer

1962    Sodom and Gomorrah - Production Designer

1960    The Trials of Oscar Wilde - Production Designer

1959    Ten Seconds to Hell - Art Director

1959    The Angry Hills - Production Designer

1959    Portrait of a Sinner - Art Director

1959    Ben Hur

1958    Gideon of Scotland Yard - Art Director

1957    Curse of the Demon - Production Designer, Set Designer

1956    Spin a Dark Web - Art Director

1956    Around the World in 80 Days - Production Designer

1947    Prairie Express - Character played: Pete

1947    Flashing Guns - Character played: Dishpan

Best Art Direction: The Madness of King George, Won Academy Award - 1993

Best Art Direction: Addams Family Values, Nominated Academy Award - 1977

Best Art Direction: The Spy Who Loved Me, Nominated Academy Award - 1975

Best Art Direction: Barry Lyndon, Won British Academy Awards - 1965

Best Art Direction of a Color British Film: The Ipcress File, Won  


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Copyright 2002 609 (West Riding) Archives
Last modified: April 11, 2003