Some sad news today. Bob May, who donned The Robot’s suit in the hit 1960s television show Lost in Space, died yesterday of congestive heart failure in Lancaster, CA, according to his daughter Deborah May. He was 69.
Actress June Lockhart, who played family matriarch Dr. Maureen Robinson on the show, told the Associated Press that May got the part by chance: “He always said he got the job because he fit in the robot suit. It was one of those wonderful Hollywood stories. He just happened to be on the studio lot when someone saw him and sent him to see Irwin Allen about the part. Allen said, ‘If you can fit in the suit, you’ve got the job.”‘
USA Today reported:
Lost in Space was a space-age retelling of The Swiss Family Robinson story in which professor John Robinson, his wife and their children were on a space mission when their craft was knocked hopelessly off course by the evil Dr. Zachary Smith, who became trapped in space with them.
May’s robot was the Robinson family’s loyal sidekick, warning them of approaching disaster at every turn. His line to one of the children, Danger, Will Robinson, became a national catch phrase.
The grandson of famed vaudeville comedian Chic Johnson, May was introduced to show business at age 2 when he began appearing in the Hellzapoppin comedy revue with Johnson and his partner, Ole Olsen.
He went on to appear in numerous films with Jerry Lewis and in such TV shows as The Time Tunnel, McHale’s Navy and The Red Skelton Show. He was also a stuntman in such 1950s and ’60s TV shows as Cheyenne, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, The Roaring 20s and Stagecoach.
He was particularly fond of his Robot role, once saying he came to consider the suit a “home away from home.”
Lockhart said May wore the suit for hours at a time and learned the lines of every actor in the show so he would know when to respond to their cues. Because it wasn’t easy to get in and out of the suit, he kept it on during breaks.
May is survived by his wife Judith, his two children, and four grandchildren.
He will be missed.