Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rest In Peace: Bob May!

Bob May, the man inside the Robot on LOST IN SPACE passed away on January 18, at age 69.

For more click HERE.

May, the grandson of vaudevillians, brought an amazing sense of personality and (believe it or not) comic timing to The Robot – basically a shell-on-wheeled-tracks – that he squeezed into every week for three television seasons. (1965-1968)

Never credited, perhaps to create the illusion that the The Robot was “real”, Bob May never even SPOKE for his greatest creation. The Robot’s voice was dubbed over May's by famed television announcer Dick Tufeld – who also brought incredible personality (and some amazingly melodramatic emotion) to the character with his vocal performance.

However, there is one instance where Bob May’s voice is actually heard speaking for The Robot during an episode.

It was the climactic ending scene of “The Ghost Planet(On DVD in LOST IN SPACE Season Two, Volume One), where the Robinsons are pushing the semi-disabled Robot back to the ship, as they are under fire from automatons. Dick Tufeld apparently failed to cover the Robot’s dialogue in this scene, as he frantically urges his friends to “Heave and Push!” Listen to it, and you will hear the difference. (Above and Below: The Robot in "The Ghost Planet" 1966)

I never considered it before, but it may very well be an inability of the technology of the time that did not allow for the “isolation” of Bob May’s vocal histrionics over that of the others (John, Don, Will, and Smith) – who, uncharacteristically, all seemed to be shouting over one another in their frenzy!

Without such isolation, perhaps Dick Tufeld’s voice could not have been overdubbed in that instance. May often sung for the Robot, including “Santa Lucia” in the very same episode, but that was a rare opportunity to hear him speak!

Oh, and Bob May was also did a silent cameo as Hitler in the TIME TUNNEL episode “The Kidnappers” – on DVD in The Time Tunnel Volume Two. Del (“Kowalski”) Monroe, from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was also in that one as a time traveling android.

Rest In Peace, Mr. May… you’ve entertained several grateful generations! May your “Power Pack” always be fully charged and never pulled out!

Could Bob May have asked for a better Honor Guard than THIS? ...I don’t think so!


Chris Barat said...


Sorry to hear about this. May certainly brought a lot of ingenuity and humor to that potentially thankless job.

The LIS 20th anniversary documentary claimed that May voiced the robot's laughter, but I'd swear that was done by Tufeld as well. Agreeance?


Joe Torcivia said...


Dick Tufeld “sung” for the Robot in certain circumstances – where the singing was more like his “speaking”. Consider “Row, Row, Row Your Boat!” in the teaser of “Collision of Planets” – or “Gonna Jump Down, Turn Around, Pick a Golden Nugget…” in “Cave of the Wizards”.

The Robot’s intentionally bad attempt at “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips”, in “Space Circus” was Tufeld as well.

But, when it was “real singing” like “Santa Lucia” in “The Ghost Planet” or harmonizing with Smith as he sings in the shower as in “The Oasis”… THAT was Bob May. You can hear the difference.