Original Robby the Robot goes up for auction

Original Robby the Robot goes up for auction

0 comments 📅04 November 2017, 09:00

Up for grabs is the original Robby the Robot from the 1956 epic science fiction movie Forbidden Planet, starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen and often hailed as a founding father of modern sci-fi.

International auction house Bonhams is offering the fully operational robot who cost $120,000 to build ($1.2 million in today’s money). Long before C-3PO and R2-D2 stole the limelight, Robby was the best-known, silver-suited, metal-booted star of cinema. He even has his own IMDb page.

Replicating 60 gallons of whisky for the ship’s cook on the slide

In the movie, Robby was constructed by the archetypal eccentric professor, Dr Morbius, who was driven to the borderline of genius and insanity by artificially boosting his intelligence with ancient alien artefacts. Robby was everyone’s dream silicon-based buddy. He could make pretty much anything using his built-in, molecular-level replicator, he was highly intelligent with a cheeky personality, an arid dry sense of humour and was obedient without question.

Designed by Robert Kinoshita, Arnold Gillespie, Irving Block, Mentor Huebner, and Arthur Lonergan, Robby also comes with the vehicle that he used in Forbidden Planet, as well as a control panel, an alternate head, his original staging crates, the harness worn by actors Frankie Carpenter and Frankie Darro to haul the heavy suit and other robotic accouterments.

Strap yourselves in gentlemen.

He was constructed out of vacuum-form Royalite plastic, acetate, and aluminum with rubber hands, a Perspex transparent “head” and a pair of men’s size 10.5B black leather loafers inside the feet for the actor wearing the 120 lb (54 kg) prop/costume, which was articulated like a suit of armor. He included seven war-surplus electric motors to power his mechanical “scanners” and “brain,” plus a “mouth” made of blue neon tubes run by a 40,000 volt power source run via a cable out of the robot’s heel or onboard batteries.

After Forbidden Planet opened, Robby attended the premiere at (what was then called) Grauman’s Chinese Theater and then toured the country on a promotional tour. Robby also starred in the feature The Invisible Boy before embarking on a decades-long career, appearing in television programs like The Thin Man, The Twilight Zone, Columbo, Lost in Space and The Addams Family, as well as various films, science fiction conventions and charitable events up to this day.

Actor Frankie Darro, who was uncredited in Forbidden Planet, suiting up as Robby

Unfortunately, MGM didn’t take very good care of Robby and the prop was in poor shape when he and his car were sold to Jim Brucker in 1970 for display at Movie World/Cars of the Stars. In 1979, Robby was bought by filmmaker and special effect designer Bill Malone, who had already built a full scale reproduction of the robot from the original blueprints. Using his expertise, Malone restored the badly deteriorated bot, including casting new rubber hands and Perspex dome, which had rotted and yellowed respectively.

According to Bonhams, Robby is now fully operational, though the car, which is based on a Jeep chassis, no longer functions due to MGM cannibalizing the steering system. The sale includes an alternative head built for the Twilight Zone episode, a pair of interchangeable claws that were part of the original design, the resting frame, control panel, and packing cases.

The TCM Out of this World auction also features some other classic movie memorabilia, including some beautiful model replicas from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), Columbo’s iconic raincoat and even Luke’s screen-used lightsaber from Return of the Jedi (1983). It takes places on 21 Nov 2017, starting at 13:00 EST and no price estimate has been released for Robby.

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