Friday, November 10, 2017

For Sale: The Original Robby the Robot

Robby the Robot is back in the news again. He made his debut in the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet, designed by a talented group of individuals at the MGM prop department, a radical advance from the walking tin cans that appeared in such films prior as The Phantom Empire and... well, name a movie that pre-dates Forbidden Planet and you know what I am talking about. He's become an iconic symbol for fans of classic science-fiction films, marketed as wind-up toys and figurines multiple times, and the costume was reused multiple times on other productions. And Robby is up for sale.

Robby was cool. He cost $125,000 to be made (equivalent of more than $1 million by today's inflation), considered themes expensive movie prop made up to that time, and was worth every penny. He looked like a million bucks. The diorama used as a backdrop of Altair IV looked cheap compared to Robby, who overshadowed the cast (with respect to Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis) upon his first entry in Forbidden Planet. It was not until Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey that the bar was raised with science-fiction production. (Some might debate that Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still was equally cool, and I won't dispute that.) 

Because Robby remained a prop on the MGM lot, he was recycled for use on numerous movies and television productions, from The Invisible Boy (1957), four episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Addams Family, My Little Margie, The Thin Man, Morky and Mindy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Love Boat, Wonder WomanThe Monkees, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Hazel, Lost in Space and Columbo. Robby makes a brief appearance either in tribute or as a spoof in such films as Heavy Metal (1981), Gremlins (1984), The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

So it might come as a surprise that a recent auction at Bonhams will offer Robby the Robot to the highest bidder. In conjunction with Turner Classic Movies, the annual auction of movie memorabilia, props and costumes usually contains half a dozen eye-brow raisers. Among the items this year is a trench coat worn by Peter Falk on Columbo. 

Robby was on display behind glass as the 2006 San Diego Comic Con and had I known about that beforehand, I would have flown out there just to have my photo taken with the iconic movie prop. My only hope is that Robby will be purchased by someone who can put him on display at a museum for fanboys like myself to pay a visit.

The auction house offers an online catalog for curiosity seekers and potential bidders, with descriptions of the items. (I often read the descriptions for those occasional bits of trivia, which I find fascinating.) The link below offers a direct view of Robby the Robot as promoted on Bonham's website. 

The Bonhams auction will be held November 21. If you cannot wait to see what the gavel price will go for, check out Julien's November 17 auction when an x-ray of Marilyn Monroe's pelvis and Evil Kinevel's motorcycle goes up for sale.



1 comment:

Erwin-K said...

Robby, as a Forbidden Planet publicity stunt, I assume, once appeared as a "cast member" of the Today Show. Among other things he gave the weather forecasts for other planets in the solar system.

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