Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

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John F
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Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Sat Nov 11, 2017 2:19 pm

The most memorable character in the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet," up to a point an adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," will be sold at auction in ten days. (Well, the most memorable for many people; for me it was the actress Anne Francis, because that was my mother's name.) It's an entertaining story.

Robby the Robot: From ‘Forbidden Planet’ to Auction Block
By THOMAS VINCIGUERRA
NOV. 10, 2017

Image

The only cast member of the 1956 science-fiction space epic “Forbidden Planet” to receive sole billing in the opening credits is being auctioned. In other words, it’s not Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis or Leslie Nielsen. It’s Robby, the seven-foot-tall robot who towered over his co-stars both literally and, ultimately, in the popular imagination. On Nov. 21, he will be part of Bonhams’ “Out of This World!” sale of movie memorabilia in New York, with an expected sale price in the low- to mid-seven figures.

As opposed to the “Maschinenmensch” of “Metropolis” (1927) and Gort in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), Robby represented a breakthrough in mechanical personality. Though vaguely menacing, he mixed readily with humans. His voice, provided in postproduction by Marvin Miller, was stentorian yet conversational.

And his looks were unforgettable. His bowling-ball-shaped legs, whirling and clattering chest and head components (topped off by a clear, bottlenose skullcap), and blue neon tubing that lit up when he spoke made him an instant classic. After “Forbidden Planet,” Robby appeared in “The Twilight Zone,” “The Addams Family,” “Lost in Space,” “Hazel,” “Columbo” and elsewhere. He also inspired a bevy of toys. “He’s so beautifully thought out,” said Robby’s owner, Bill Malone, 70, of Studio City, Calif. “‘Forbidden Planet’ would not have worked had Robby been a boiler-pot robot from the 1940s.”
Robby was built mainly of Royalite, an ABS plastic often used for luggage, by a team of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer designers and technicians for approximately $100,000. His electronics could be activated via an offstage control panel connected by a cable, or by an operator inside the costume who conducted the actual movement. “As a kid,” Mr. Malone said, “I totally believed he was real.”

Bonhams is selling Robby along with the control panel, a futuristic land vehicle he piloted on planet Altair IV, and his original M.G.M. packing crates. The studio sold the lot in 1970 to Jim Brucker, who displayed Robby at the now-defunct Movie World/Cars of Stars venue in Orange County, Calif. Mr. Malone bought the works from Mr. Brucker for “pennies on the dollar” in 1979; since then the robot has resided in Mr. Malone’s home. “Every morning I’d have coffee with Robby,” he said.

So why unload him now? “I’m of an age where I’m still healthy and doing good,” Mr. Malone said, “but I think it’s time to think about his future. We’re sending Robby to college.” There are also practical considerations. Mr. Malone recalled that someone once telephoned to ask, “‘Is it O.K. if I bring a couple of people over?’” “And he drove up in a Greyhound bus with a bunch of Japanese people, as if I were part of the Universal tour,” he continued. “I think people need to see him in a museum setting.”

“It was tough working with a robot who didn’t talk,” said Earl Holliman, 89, the last surviving major player in “Forbidden Planet.” “Whenever I talked to Robby, the lines would be delivered by the script supervisor, who was sitting next to the cameraman. It was kind of awkward.” Still, as the cook of United Planets Cruiser C-57D, Mr. Holliman forged a bond with Robby when the robot distilled 60 gallons of bourbon for him. “He’s been a friend for 62 years,” Mr. Holliman said, “and I hope that whoever gets him keeps him well lubricated.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/arts ... nhams.html
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by Belle » Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:01 pm

"Stentorian yet conversational". Absolutely love it!! :D Of course, Robby was not the first non-human companion in film or television; before that there was Francis, the talking Mule!!! 😉 :mrgreen:

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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by lennygoran » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:16 pm

Belle wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 5:01 pm
Francis, the talking Mule!!! 😉 :mrgreen:
Belle that made me think of Donald O'Connor-he could dance! Regards, Len

www.youtube.com/embed/0Rx5_IEmzpo[/youtube]

jbuck919
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:48 pm

Love that movie and have seen it many times. The Robot in Lost in Space was not the same, but was inspired by Robbie.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:34 pm

Among the many innovations in "Forbidden Planet" was a completely electronic score. Because no musicians were used (other than the composers), the musicians' union blocked any musical credits, so the score wasn't eligible for an Oscar; otherwise it might well have won.
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by Belle » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:11 am

John F wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:34 pm
Among the many innovations in "Forbidden Planet" was a completely electronic score. Because no musicians were used (other than the composers), the musicians' union blocked any musical credits, so the score wasn't eligible for an Oscar; otherwise it might well have won.
Why would it have won? It was just noise; 'sound design' would seem more appropriate than "score".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unSrf-htPbk

But, wait, there's more!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5ylc19O9m8

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:15 am

Belle wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:11 am
John F wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:34 pm
Among the many innovations in "Forbidden Planet" was a completely electronic score. Because no musicians were used (other than the composers), the musicians' union blocked any musical credits, so the score wasn't eligible for an Oscar; otherwise it might well have won.
Why would it have won? It was just noise.
There are more things in music, Belle, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden ... Soundtrack
Last edited by John F on Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by Belle » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:20 am

John F wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:15 am
Belle wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:11 am
John F wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:34 pm
Among the many innovations in "Forbidden Planet" was a completely electronic score. Because no musicians were used (other than the composers), the musicians' union blocked any musical credits, so the score wasn't eligible for an Oscar; otherwise it might well have won.
Why would it have won? It was just noise.
There are more things in music, Belle, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. :)
LOL. Yes, I quite agree, but that isn't 'music'.

"You would play upon me; you would seem to know
my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
the top of my compass". :mrgreen:

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:08 am

Belle wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:20 am
John F wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:15 am
There are more things in music, Belle, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. :)
LOL. Yes, I quite agree, but that isn't 'music'.
Why not? Music has never been limited to pitched tones; if it were, the only drums in an orchestra would be the timpani. The soundtrack for "Forbidden Planet" is purposefully organized abstract sound just as much as the Goldberg Variations. Most of us don't enjoy it as much, or at all, but that's our problem.

Dismissing what we don't like as not music or as noise may be effective in the short run, but it has a way of eventually making the accuser look foolish. Take this from a critique of a passage in Beethoven's 5th symphony: "Is it music, yes or no? If I am answered in the affirmative, I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering as music." Nicolas Slonimsky's wonderful "Lexicon of Musical Invective" is full of such critical missteps, but our own judgments about the more advanced music of our time may look no better with the passage of time.
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by Belle » Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:06 am

John F wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:08 am
Belle wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:20 am
John F wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:15 am
There are more things in music, Belle, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. :)
LOL. Yes, I quite agree, but that isn't 'music'.
Why not? Music has never been limited to pitched tones; if it were, the only drums in an orchestra would be the timpani. The soundtrack for "Forbidden Planet" is purposefully organized abstract sound just as much as the Goldberg Variations. Most of us don't enjoy it as much, or at all, but that's our problem.

Dismissing what we don't like as not music or as noise may be effective in the short run, but it has a way of eventually making the accuser look foolish. Take this from a critique of a passage in Beethoven's 5th symphony: "Is it music, yes or no? If I am answered in the affirmative, I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering as music." Nicolas Slonimsky's wonderful "Lexicon of Musical Invective" is full of such critical missteps, but our own judgments about the more advanced music of our time may look no better with the passage of time.
All those quotes have contexts and are relative to their time. He would have compared Beethoven to Mozart; both things share the classical tradition and tones used to create melody and harmony, laid down by sophisticated notation. No good comparing Beethoven to sound design. And it's not my problem that I don't like sound design since last time I looked it wasn't an indictable offense. Time will tell whether I am right but as of now there's precious little but the most peripheral interest in any of it. African drumming uses pitched drums but it is accepted as a rhythmic form, mostly handed down orally and not some high art form of music.

I don't agree that the Goldberg Variations are 'abstract sound' since they are constructed in a way which makes perfect musical (and probably mathematically precise) sense. This from the man who established equal temperament in order to align the musical forces so that they made sense and were not cacophonic sounds, which they quite easily could become.

I've never been interested in cultural relativism as the basis of argument. It's a series of rabbit holes and you won't find me wanting to argue in that way at all. Some things in life do have an absolute value and that's hard to accept, I know, but definitely not for me. Western classical music, as that term is generally understood, has a non-negotiable absolute value and cannot be hijacked by something new age, which resembles it only insofar as noise resembles sound, and by a postmodern ideology that all things are equal. They are not. And musical taste is entirely subjective; ergo, nobody really looks "foolish" for their opinions.

It seems paradoxical to me that you hold some past performances and performers as the gold standard and, at the same time, display this kind of postmodern relativistic view about sound. We're never going to agree about it and I don't want to argue with you as this will create acrimony. The older I get the more I'm prepared to defend certain ideas and this is what I've done. And I've been inspired some pretty significant public intellectuals in discussion recently who've given me the chops to do it.

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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:44 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:34 pm
Among the many innovations in "Forbidden Planet" was a completely electronic score. Because no musicians were used (other than the composers), the musicians' union blocked any musical credits, so the score wasn't eligible for an Oscar; otherwise it might well have won.
I love that score as an essential part of what may be the greatest science fiction movie ever. If I had one objection, it is when the newly-made genius Morbius refers to the Krell power as "the number one raised almost to the power of infinity," which is embarrassingly laughable in three different ways, though perhaps only a math teacher would recognize that.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:58 am

Belle wrote:It seems paradoxical to me that you hold some past performances and performers as the gold standard and, at the same time, display this kind of postmodern relativistic view about sound.
How so? Toscanini and Cortot never played that kind of music, and I've never said they were always supreme in the music they did play - I have no use for their Bach, for example. As for electronic music, that's not "postmodern," it's modern; Varese's "Poeme Electronique" and the sound track for "Forbidden Planet" date from the 1950s. The term "postmodern" is used mainly for music that retreats from the extremes of modernism to more traditional styles. That's certainly how I use it.
Belle wrote:I don't agree that the Goldberg Variations are 'abstract sound' since they are constructed in a way which makes perfect musical (and probably mathematically precise) sense.
That is abstract. The music does not express extramusical meaning as the sounds of language do, or program music such as the Symphonie Fantastique. Mathematics is abstract too, in excelsis. Or what do you mean by the word?

You're quite free to believe in the absolute value of Western classical music. I do too, though I say "believe" because we have to take it on faith, there's no way to prove it rationally, and most people on Earth don't agree. Having said that, however, does not allow us to dismiss any music we object to, whether Beethoven's 5th or Webern's or "Poeme Electronique," as not music at all but "sound design" or something else. To do that we are obliged to define what music is, and in 2017 that's much harder than in 1808. The benighted 19th century critic did say one insightful thing: he wrote of "the art which I am in the habit of considering as music." The word "habit" is exactly the right word.
jbuck919 wrote:If I had one objection, it is when the newly-made genius Morbius refers to the Krell power as "the number one raised almost to the power of infinity," which is embarrassingly laughable in three different ways, though perhaps only a math teacher would recognize that.
Even I would recognize it, and I was no good in math at school. I take it as an in-joke between the authors and the sci fi audience, who would surely get it, at least those of my generation would have in the 1950s. Whether Walter Pidgeon was in on the joke, I don't know. :)

By the way, in that clip the music is in the foreground and recognizably pitched, while the sound effects are in perspective and recognizably noise. The soundtrack could have been notated and played by the strings of MGM's studio orchestra, vibratos and glissandos and all. But I'm sure that would have been ludicrous, while the use of electronic sine wave generators is exactly right, just as Bernard Herrmann's use of a violin section for the shower scene in "Psycho" is exactly right.
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by Belle » Mon Nov 13, 2017 5:49 am

I knew we wouldn't agree, so it's pointless continuing the discussion. Thanks for your comments.

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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:52 am

John F wrote: Even I would recognize it, and I was no good in math at school. I take it as an in-joke between the authors and the sci fi audience, who would surely get it, at least those of my generation would have in the 1950s. Whether Walter Pidgeon was in on the joke, I don't know. :)
It might be that way, John. It never occurred too me. I just thought it was a moment of monumental stupidity that no one caught in such an intelligent movie. There is enough humor in just Robbie preparing many gallons for whiskey for the Earl Holliman character. I mean if even you got the problem.... ;) :)

What's hard to believe is that thing is expected to sell in the seven figures. A painting by Rembrandt, maybe. (Nothing like that ever comes up for sale, but oddly enough the old masters would probably command less than many more recent painters who keep setting auction records.) But a robot suit selling for that amount? It's just a reminder that we have too many rich idle persons in the US who should be taxed fairly instead the opposite way we seem about to be headed.

While I'm on thread drift, my first visit to the Metropolitan Museum as a boy came quite shortly after the acquisition of Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer, which set some kind of record that would now seem a modest. Museums, however well endowed, cannot do this anymore, even if such a thing would become available. All the fancy collecting belongs in the hands of the private very rich. Except, watch the movie Herb and Dorothy. They were hoarders (there's no other word for it) of art I don't generally like, and there let everybody figure out the rest if they don't already know.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:08 am

Nobody's bought Robbie yet, but when the auction is over we'll see what his corpse is really worth. He cost over $125,000 to make 60 years ago, and that's $1,121,342.69 as of last year. (See the inflation calculator at https://westegg.com/inflation/.)

Another outstanding science fiction movie of the 1950s was "The War of the Worlds," released 3 years before "Forbidden Planet." For me that was the scarier of the two movies, because it showed all of us and our world threatened with destruction here and now by aliens who have come here, not a remote world way in the future with no living aliens even there. Nowadays we know too much about Mars to believe or even half-believe in the possibility of a Martian invasion, while for all we know, Altair IV and its inhabitants may exist.

Of course TWOTW was not an original story, it was an adaptation of H.G. Wells's 1898 novel, but for me it's a great improvement on its source in every way, and of course on Welles's radio broadcast too.

Image

No Martian war machines are going to be auctioned off, because they no longer exist. Made of copper, they were eventually melted down.
Last edited by John F on Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:56 pm

Then there is Mars Attacks, which is facetious, but would certainly scare if not terrify a small child.

Walter Pidgeon also starred as Admiral Nelson in the movie version of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which led to the TV series, one of Irwin Allen's many mediocre creations, though I think I watched every episode. (When a classmate in seventh grade told me about this great new series Star Trek I was dismissive, thinking that it was just another Irwin Allen piece of tripe. Then I actually watched it.) The Voyage movie is very flawed, as was the series. For some unknown reason, Peter Lorre is on the sub, serving no useful function, perhaps only because it lent prestige to have Peter Lorre on the sub. The captain of the boat is having an open affair with a subordinate (played by Barbara Eden), a no-no in any service at any time. The ship is attacked by a giant octopus not once, but twice, and the villain saboteuse is played by none other than Joan Fontaine.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by John F » Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:42 am

$5.375 million with fees.

Robot From ‘Forbidden Planet’ Breaks Auction Records
By ANDREW R. CHOW
NOV. 21, 2017

Last week, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci shattered auction records. On Tuesday, that distinction belonged to a robot named Robby. The seven-foot-tall robot, which appeared in the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet,” sold for $5.375 million with fees at Bonhams New York as part of a TCM auction.

It broke the record for price of a movie prop sold at auction, previously held by the original 1966 Batmobile, which sold for $4.6 million in 2013. (Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from “The Seven-Year Itch,” a costume, still edges out both, having sold for $5.6 million in 2011.)

Robby, described as fully functional, was built for approximately $100,000 for “Forbidden Planet,” a space epic that starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen. “He is the prettiest piece of mechanism on Planet Altaire,” Bosley Crowther wrote in his review of the film for The New York Times. Robby went on to have a lengthy career, appearing in “The Twilight Zone,” “The Addams Family” and other programs. Experts estimated that the robot would sell in the low- to mid- seven figures.

Robby was sold along with his Jeep, auxiliary control panel and original MGM packing crates.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/arts ... cords.html
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Re: Robbie the Robot - Going once, going twice...

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:05 pm

He who dies with the most toys wins.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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