Autograph March 2010
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Majel Barrett-Roddenberry

Featured in Autograph April 2009

Majel signed this calendar after our lengthy interview in 1999 and now hangs on my wall.

The wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, was the First Lady of Star Trek, having been involved in the franchise since its original pilot. As fans gear up for the May 8 release of Star Trek XI, we remember Majel, who died at 76 last December.

Majel’s career with Star Trek began with some resistance from NBC executives, who insisted that her then-boyfriend, producer Roddenberry, cast a man in her role as starship officer, Number One.

Majel went on to play Dr. McCoy’s assistant, Nurse Christine Chapel. And devoted Star Trek fans recognize her voice the first time they hear it, as Majel was the voice of the ship’s computer in the original series, all the spawned series, as well as the films.

Her performance as Deanna Troi’s famous mouthy mother Lwaxan Troi generated a huge fan following. This character appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation often, and in Deep Space Nine as the love interest of security chief Odo.

Majel was a staple at various conventions throughout her career, promoting new projects. I had a chance to interview her at a convention in 1999. She was as down to Earth as ever, signing autographs and chatting about her memorabilia company, Lincoln Enterprises.

Mark Gross: What was it like being involved with Star Trek from the start?
Majel Barrett: Well, for all of us back then, it was a job, and unfortunately after that first pilot episode, I got fired from my job. I worked my way back in and got the role of Nurse Chapel. We all went to work every morning never thinking it was going to be any more than what it was that day or that week. Each year, we hoped we were going to be on another year, but that only happened for three years. We were actually a failed series then.

What did you do after the show was cancelled, until you came back as Nurse Chapel for Star Trek: The Motion Picture?
Gene and I did Spectre, The Questor Tapes, Planet Earth, Genesis II and I was also doing TV shows myself then too.

What was your time like with Gene, who was such a genius in creating science fiction shows?
We just led a normal life. I mean Gene was not really “spacey” and our house didn’t have Star Trek and sci-fi stuff all over. Actually, we were golfers and we went everywhere around the world to play golf.

How did you and Gene meet?

Gene was working on three pilots in L.A. and I was introduced to him as a possibility for a role. We began talking and one thing led to another. We lived together for one year and were married for 22 years.

How did the Nurse Chapel role come about?
I actually found the role as Nurse Chapel because I was so disappointed in not getting the role as Number One. I kept looking at the scripts and finally, about the fourth script in, I found the role of a doctor who was coming onboard the ship to look for her fiancé, and I said, “I can do this.” But once the network fires you—you know they don’t want you back. So I went out and bleached my hair, which fooled even Gene at first. I said, “If I can fool you, I can fool anyone.” Gene said, “Yes you can.” And I did.

What about your famous voice as the ship’s computer?
I was just simply there, they needed somebody to say all those words onto the tape, and so there I was.

Tell me a bit about your character Lwaxana Troi, Deanna’s mother from The Next Generation series.
Gene came home one day and said to me, “Majel, I have a great part for you, and guess what, you don’t have to act!” Well, I didn’t know what the role called for, and Gene just described it as the Auntie Mame of the Galaxy. Then the character kept coming back, and I got to be quite proud of it. I often heard women yelling to me from across a parking lot telling me that this role has done more for women over 40 than any movement in America. I love Lwaxana, she was a great role!

Another item the First Lady of Star Trek autographed for me in 1999.

On Sunday Jan. 4, 2009, Majel’s family, friends and fans came to Forest Lawn Memorial Parks in the Hollywood Hills to pay their final respects to the First Lady of Star Trek. A large crowd, including many Star Trek luminaries, gathered for the official memorial.

The Roddenberry family also held a public memorial for Majel at The Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn. The crowd of approximately 300 was a mix of friends, family, colleagues and many Trek fans, some of whom showed up in costume. Present were Majel’s Original Series costars Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and George Takei, as well as many of the lead actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent series, including Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, Anthony Montgomery, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Armin Shimerman and Garrett Wang.

When her husband died in 1991, Majel had part of Roddenberry’s remains launched into space in 1997 through Celestis Inc., a memorial spaceflights company. After Majel’s death, Celestis Inc. announced it will launch the remains of both Gene Roddenberry and Majel in 2012. They will traverse the cosmos and galaxy together, which is exactly how it should be.

In the Trenches: James Cameron

Featured in Autograph April 2009

Counterclockwise from top: James Cameron (left) with my stepdad, who played Captain Smith in Ghosts of the Abyss.

I’m usually out there getting autographs the hard way; outside concert venues, sneaking backstage, or waiting in a long line at a bookstore. Last spring I finally I got a few the easy way. Thanks to my stepdad, John Donovan, who played Captain Smith in James Cameron’s 3D Titanic movie Ghosts of the Abyss, I got to go to a party at the Malibu mansion of director James Cameron, the Academy Award-winning author and director of several Terminator films, True Lies, Rambo II and The Abyss. His biggest hit was Titanic.

I immediately called my friend Ken Calloway. At one of his parties, he had bottles of wine with really cool labels. “Buy a bunch of bottles of ‘Two-Buck Chuck,’” he said. “Peel the labels off, and design your own on the computer. Make up vintages that fit the theme of your party.”
“And save a fortune on expensive wine,” I said.

Titanic, Special Collectors Edition, signed by Cameron at the party.

I asked him to make me a Titanic label, so I could hand a bottle of wine to Cameron when I got to the party.

Ken called it “Iron Jim’s Titanic Cabernet” and had a picture of the Titanic on it. On the sides, he described the wine, using various film titles in the description. I had him make sure it said 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Besides the wine, I brought a leather-bound version of Titanic and a DVD of Strange Days, a weird sci-fi film he wrote and produced. I also brought a DVD of Usual Suspects for Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, to sign. (They met while filming Titanic.)

I had to turn my name in at the main gate  to this community and at Cameron’s residence. My girlfriend, Kristina, and I met up with my parents outside Cameron’s house, where I was eyeing his cherried-out Shelby Cobra.

When I was introduced to Cameron, I handed over the bottle and he said, “Cool. Oh, it’s a 1912. I better not open this.” I saw him reading the sides of the label. He smiled and said, “Thanks. I’m going to save this. If we drink it, it will just end up an empty bottle.” I admitted it was just an $18 bottle of wine anyway. He laughed. I think he was surprised I paid that much.

The Usual Suspects signed by Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis, and Streange Days signed by Cameron.

I waited to ask Cameron for autographs. This was a swanky affair, and I didn’t want to seem unprofessional.

I told another guest that I wanted to get something signed by Cameron and his wife. He said “Cameron is really good about signing. One time I brought a Titanic poster, and he was late for a meeting. He asked, ‘Do I have to sign it now? Can I sign it later?’ Then he just signed it. I guess as long as you don’t say ‘Thanks, I can put this on eBay now.”

I spotted Suzy Amis. Kristina advised it would be cheesy to ask Suzy to autograph my DVD, so I tucked it into my back pocket as I walked over to chat with her.

I asked her how she got the part in Usual Suspects. “Kevin Bacon called me,” she said, “and said his friend was directing this little film.”

Titanic VHS signed by Cameron during the filming of Ghosts of the Abyss.

“My girlfriend is going to kill me,” I said, “but would you mind signing the DVD for me?” I handed her the DVD and she wrote “For Josh, Live Your Passions! Suzy Amis Cameron.”

After dinner, guests gathered in the screening room and Cameron showed scenes from his television documentary Expedition: Bismarck that had never been shown.

Finally, I approached Cameron for his autograph. I gave him an extra label for the “Iron Jim” wine, in case he had another bottle he wanted to slap it on. He thanked me, and I said, “Well, it’s sort of a bribe. I want to see if you’ll sign these.” I handed him the DVDs of Titanic and Strange Days.

With the collector’s edition of Titanic in his hands, he noticed the silver embossed “James Cameron” signature. Signing above it in bold black Sharpie, he said, “Now you’ll have a real one.”

Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction

Featured in Autograph April 2009

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman

“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going to go,” Forrest J Ackerman would tell guests touring his collection. But when the man known as Uncle Forry to legions of horror and science fiction fans died in December at 92, he left an amazing collection behind. Thousands of sci-fi and horror related items will be auctioned from April 30 to May 1 by Profiles in History. “This will be the most important sale of horror-related items ever assembled for auction,” said Joe Maddalena, the firm’s CEO.

Jerry Weist, an author, collector and science fiction consultant for Sotheby’s described Ackerman’s collection in 2003: “There was nothing like it anywhere in the world, and there never will be again. The heritage of modern collectors is based in the Ackerman collection. It’s as if one guy in Europe had most of Braque, Picasso, Matisse and Chagalle, as if one person had an overwhelming collection.”

No. 1 Fan

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Photo signed and inscriber by Forry Ackerman and Vincent Price

Ackerman won a special Hugo Award in 1953 for No. 1 Fan Personality. He published 50-plus stories, was literary agent to the likes of Ray Bradbury, L. Ron Hubbard and Marion Zimmer Bradley, appeared in more than 200 films, and served as editor and writer of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland for 25 years. But the word most often used to describe him? Fan.

The key to Ackerman’s tremendous influence on the genres of horror and science fiction films and literature was his life-long enthusiasm for the art form and its artists. As a fan, he amassed a collection that, at its peak in the mid-’60s would have been worth about $10 million in today’s market, Weist once speculated.

Unlike many collectors, Ackerman always shared his collection with the public, offering free tours of it at his home every Saturday. The “Ackermansion,” as his 18-room Los Feliz estate was called, became a mecca for science fiction fans and visitors from around the world. Even after the cost of legal troubles and illness forced him to downsize his collection and home, Ackerman continued to greet visitors and give personal tours of the house he dubbed the “Mini-Ackermansion.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1916, Ackerman often recounted the birth of his fascination with science fiction when, in 1926, he bought a copy of Amazing Stories. “Among all the magazines, that one said, ‘Take me home, little boy. You will love me.’”

Three years later, he published his first story in Science Wonder Quarterly and founded The Boys Scientification Club. His dream of bringing together a community of science fiction writers and readers began. In 1938 he published a young Ray Bradbury’s first story and introduced him to science fiction greats Robert Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and others. They were members of his chapter of the Science Fiction Society, which met in L.A.’s Clifton Cafeteria. Years later he bankrolled Bradbury’s fanzine Future Fantasia with $90.

In 1939, Ackerman attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in Manhattan with his friend Myrtle R. Douglas. Both of them dressed in space costumes, setting the stage for the thousands of Trekkies who would follow suit.

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

ibute Vincent Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads in part, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

Ackerman is credited with coining the term “sci-fi.” In a story told to the Los Angeles Times, he explained that he was driving with his wife in 1954, when the radio mentioned the term “hi-fi.” “I looked in the rear-view mirror, stuck out my tongue and there, tattooed on the end was ‘sci-fi.’ To her immortal embarrassment, my dear wife said, ‘Forget it, Forry—it’ll never catch on.’”

His connection to the film world grew naturally out of his career as a literary agent, and Ackerman became friends with horror stars such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. But Ackerman also promoted the works of the behind-the-scenes artists who created the magic of the movies, inspiring film director Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, and many others.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Steven Spielberg to Ackerman’s assistant.

A life-long fan of science fiction B-movies, Ackerman had cameos in more than 200 films, including The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II and the campy Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold. More important than his work onscreen was his role in shaping the industry’s understanding of the genre. It was Ackerman who brought attention in the United States to the 1927 German film Metropolis. He called himself Ed Wood’s ‘ill-literary’ agent, and provided feedback to Wood as he wrote and directed Plan 9 from Outer Space.

In 1958, Ackerman launched his magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, each issue full of interviews with film monsters Lugosi and Karloff, articles on past and current genre films, comic strip adaptations of classic movies and a letter to the editor’s page called “Fang Mail.” In the Mimosa fanzine, Ackerman explained the Famous Monsters tone: “The publisher sent a sign saying ‘I am 11-and-a-half years old and I am your reader, Forrest Ackerman. Make me laugh.” Ackerman obliged until 1983 when the magazine stopped publication after a run of 191 issues.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

1982 TLS by Stephen King to Ackerman’s assistant.

Horror and science fiction may have lost their No. 1 fan, but Ackerman’s legend lives on. In the words of Stephen King, “Forry was the first; he was best and he is the best. He stood up for a generation of kids who realized that if it was junk, it was magic junk.”

Inside the Ackerman Estate Auction

After the Ackerman estate trustees decided to use Profiles in History to handle the auction, we spoke to Joe Maddalena, who was in the thick of preparing for the sale. In explaining the trustees’ decision, Maddalena said that his company had sold items from Ackerman’s collection over the years to help sustain him financially. “We specialize in the higher end of this field of collecting—science fiction and horror memorabilia. And we have the right market—not only have we got the memorabilia clients, but we have the autograph clients.”

When asked to give a peek into what’s involved in auctioning Ackerman’s collection, Maddalena described the effort of inventorying the contents of the house and storage. “Forry’s house is just full—I mean, thousands and thousands of items. There’s autographs, magazines, newspapers, costumes, toys, art work. We’re inventorying, and then we box it up and bring it to our offices.”

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

First U.S. edition of Dracula, signed by Bram Stroker, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, John Carradine and others associated with the franchise

Maddalena will go through the entire collection, looking for the items that will stand alone in the auction. The rest will be sorted by genre, personality, or film and sold in lots. “We turn the collection into thematic lots that can be sold in a sensible way. There are a couple of people who were alive at the time Forry was building his collection and they’ve been helping us identify the history and who he got each item from.”

In addition to local resources, Maddalena said that he’s been receiving countless emails from fans who toured the Ackerman estate—more than 50,000 people visited during the many years that Forry opened his house to the public and people are eager to share stories about items in the collection. “It’s a tremendous help in assembling the catalog,” Maddalena said.

The catalog, available for download from the Profiles in History website in early April, should be a major resource for fans of horror and sci-fi who want one last chance to ogle Ackerman’s collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Bela Lugosi gave his Dracula ring to Ackerman, who often wore it as he led visitors through his collection.

Maddalena provided interesting insights into the challenge of pricing the items. “I like to set starting bids based on what’s reasonable. I believe that these collectibles will find their value at market. For example, we have the Dracula ring listed at $20,000-$30,000. But it’s a unique item. It came from Lugosi to Forry. It’s uninterrupted provenance. Who knows what that’s worth? It could go as high as $100,000, but it’s hard to guess because there’s never been another. Or the costumes—there has never been any Lugosi wardrobe for sale before.”

While popular culturally, horror films were not considered historically significant years ago. “Horror material from the 1930s and ’40s just doesn’t exist,” Maddalena said. “People thought there was no reason to save a Dracula poster. No one thought about saving a costume from Dracula, so this type of material just doesn’t exist. No one has unearthed any Universal horror costumes or costume pieces of significance ever.”

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935)

No one except Forry Ackerman. Through his friendships with actors, directors, writers, costume and set designers, Ackerman saved what might have been lost.

“Also impacting value is that the items were given to Forry, and his association has an added value,” Maddalena explained. “You not only have an 11×14 beautiful photograph of Marlene Dietrich, but it’s inscribed to Forry Ackerman. Is there a premium associated with that? Is that premium 10 percent? 20 percent? Is someone willing to pay a premium of 100 percent because it’s associated with Forry’s life?”

Here are a few of the items that Maddalena has identified for single sale.

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

A cape Lugosi wore in stage adaptations of Dracula

Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in the 1948 film Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula. In the original 1931 Dracula, Lugosi’s Count is wearing a ring with what appears to be a simple black onyx stone. Because there are no references to the ring, it is assumed to have been a personal possession of Lugosi’s, as was the medallion he wore in that film. Lugosi gave the Abbott and Costello ring with the crest on a carnelian stone to Forry Ackerman. Ackerman later loaned it to Christopher Lee for use in his portrayals of Count Dracula. It’s the single most important Lugosi / Dracula screen-worn piece to ever come to auction.

Bela Lugosi’s robe from The Raven (1935) is reportedly the most important 1930s horror costume to ever come to auction. There’s a classic photo of Lugosi, as the Poe-obsessed Dr. Vollin, wearing the velvet collared robe as he strokes the head of a stuffed raven.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Monocle worn by Metropolis director Fritz Lang during the filming of the 1927 silent movie.

Also available in the auction is the cape made for Bela Lugosi in 1932 and used by him in stage adaptations of Dracula. Lugosi also wore the costume in Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lugosi was buried in one of his three Dracula capes, and his son owns the second. This is the third and final cape worn by Lugosi.

The 1899 first American edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker and inscribed by Bela Lugosi to Ackerman (also signed by Christopher Lee, John Carradine and a host of other Dracula-related personalities). The book was originally published in the U.K. in 1897. When Douglas & McClure published the American edition in 1899, they used the original copyright year of 1897. There have been numerous publications of Dracula, but this is the first U.S. edition and should not be confused with the 1927 Grosset & Dunlap edition which was published to coincide with the theatrical opening of Dracula on Broadway.

Autograph asked Maddalena whether the book was of greater interest to autograph or book collectors. “Any real book collector is going to think the Dracula book has been defaced. First American edition signed by Bram Stoker, that in itself is worth $10,000. A book collector is going to get sick when he sees all those other signatures. But an autograph collector is going to be euphoric.”

Fritz Lang’s monocle, which he wore when he directed Metropolis. Ackerman was an ardent fan of the 1927 silent film, and Lang gave his monocle to Forry. Along with Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, Metropolis is considered one of the most important science fiction films ever made.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author

A copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Man Demon signed by the author.

Also available are hundreds of signed 11×14 photographs of stars like Marlene Deitrich, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Fritz Lang and John Carradine. “These are the most personal autographs,” Maddalena said. “The ones he didn’t want to sell.”

Over the years, a number of individuals suggested that Ackerman’s collection belonged in a museum—that it should become a museum. The failure to do so has enraged some fans. In a 2003 Los Angeles Times article, Ray Bradbury was quoted, “We live in a stupid world.” He had over the years begged executives at a number of companies to help preserve the collection. “I said, ‘A special room with all of that [Ackerman’s collection] will be more fascinating than all that junk you have.’ They didn’t believe in the future. I believe in the future. Forrest Ackerman believed in the future. No one else cared.”

But within hours after news of the auction hit the Internet, horror and sci-fi sites began buzzing with the idea that from the sale of Forry Ackerman’s collection, thousands of fans will find the core of their own collection; a basis from which to build their own celebration of horror and sci-fi films and writing.

And, as Maddalena explained: “Forry’s will divides the proceeds from the sale among his beneficiaries. It’s a chance to help Forry give something to the people who meant the most to him.

“This is a great time to celebrate this man’s career. If collectors have ever wanted something from this genre, Ackerman is probably the single most important person who influenced collecting.”

Autograph asked Maddalena for tips for auction novices. “Decide how much you want to spend,” he said. “And try to understand what you’ll be getting for that money. For example, Forry had the last Vincent Price index card—Price signed the date on it. That card will be in a lot with other Vincent Price-related things. But it’s not just Price, it’s the connection to Forry Ackerman that you’ll be buying, so you’re really getting a lot for your money.”

The auction is a treasure trove for Vincent Price fans. In addition to the last Vincent Price autograph, there’s a handwritten tribute Price wrote to Ackerman, which reads, “Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and preserving its mementoes. His fans are legion.”

To download the Ackerman Estate auction catalog, go to The auction will be held April 30-May 1 at Profiles in History’s offices in Calabasas Hills, Calif.

Return to Forbidden Planet


Featured in Autograph March 2009

Highly collectible title card

More than 50 years after its original release, Forbidden Planet continues to beckon fans from across the cosmos. The 1956 film has become a cornerstone of the science-fiction genre because of its top-notch production values, futuristic soundtrack and a screenplay partially inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The film’s plot involves the disappearance of a group of scientists on a faraway planet, and the surprising, dangerous powers of the human mind.

The widespread influence of Forbidden Planet is seen throughout the sci-fi universe, from the Star Wars franchise and The Matrix films to several intergalactic TV series, such as Star Trek, Lost in Space and Babylon 5. The film also gave birth to one of the great icons of pop culture—Robby the Robot.

Forbidden Planet

fans were out in full force at the Hollywood Collectors Show, held in Chicago in September, to meet and acquire autographs from three of the film’s cast members: Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn) and Bob Dix (Crewman Grey). Collectors got autographs on a variety of items, including Robby the Robot toy boxes and the cover of the film’s 50th anniversary DVD.


Leslie Nielsen

magazines featuring Richard Anderson (left) and Leslie Nielsen (right)

Although these collectors think of Nielsen as the commander of the United Planets C-57D space ship, the general public knows the Canadian-born actor because of his comedic work. Nielsen became a household name due to his roles in numerous spoofs, such as Airplane!, The Naked Gun, Scary Movie 4 and Superhero Movie.

As a young actor, Nielsen mainly had done stage and TV work when he was cast as the leading actor in Forbidden Planet. The film’s established star was Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), who had been nominated for an Oscar twice in the early 1940s.

Nielsen has fond memories of joking around with Pidgeon, who died in 1984. “He was a wonderful man,” Nielsen said. “He was known as the Golden Gentleman, and we had a running, barbed exchange going all the time. I remember playing checkers with him, and he said something, so I made a comment about his shoes being too big. While he was jumping one of my men, he was saying, ‘That was uncalled for, Leslie.’ I realized I had stepped over the bounds. I had gotten too personal with that comment. So I said, ‘You’re quite right, Walter. I apologize.’ He said, ‘Accepted,’ and then he jumped another one of my men. It was like an exchange that would take place between two Englishmen.”

In 1956, audiences marveled at the film’s groundbreaking visual effects, which are still impressive to contemporary viewers. “The incredible thing about those special effects is that they were totally manual,” Nielsen noted. “Today you can do everything by computer. But they had to manufacture all those things and make them work. It was astonishing what they did.”

The picture received an Oscar nomination in the Special Effects category, but it lost to The Ten Commandments, with its classic parting of the Red Sea sequence.

Robert Dix

Robert Dix signing a Forbidden Planet cast photo

In one of the most memorable scenes in Forbidden Planet, the gigantic, orange, glowing “Id Monster” grabs three men, including Crewman Grey, and fatally hurls each of them to the ground. Today, such a fantastic scene would incorporate computer-generated imagery. In the mid-’50s, however, this spectacle was created using animation, combined with some decidedly low-tech methods.

“When I got zapped by the Id, it was with the help of four prop guys pulling me on a rope,” Dix said with a laugh. “They had a harness with a hook in the back. Then they had a spring hooked up to that and a rope. On cue, these four guys gave me a humongous jerk, and I went flying back. I landed in all these gunnysacks full of rags and paper. It was fun.”

Dix was born in Beverly Hills and followed in the footsteps of his famous father. (Richard Dix was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1931’s Cimarron.) At the time Forbidden Planet was made, Dix was a studio player under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His film credits include the western Forty Guns and the James Bond picture Live and Let Die, and he acted in numerous TV series, including Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and Death Valley Days. Affable and generous with his time, Dix is a fan favorite at conventions.

Forbidden Planet was the grandpa of all those other sci-fi movies and TV series that came out after the middle ’50s,” Dix said. “It had a regular run in theaters, but the word-of-mouth on it was what caused it to become a classic. Audiences loved it. They would go back and see it two or three times.”

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson and Robert Dix at the Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show in Chicago. Anderson is holding a box set edition of Forbidden Planet.

Seated at the convention table next to Dix was his colleague Anderson. The two actors met on MGM’s enormous Stage 27 while filming Forbidden Planet, and they remain friends to this day.

“I did 24 movies at MGM over a period of six years,” Anderson reminisced. “I was under contract, and Forbidden Planet started out as a B-movie. It was just another job. The film came out, and it made money, but no one had any idea about the legends that would come out of this movie. It was unique, and it became something that is eternal.”

Many Generation X fans know Anderson for his role as Oscar Goldman, a character who appeared in two ’70s TV series—The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Younger fans also know this character, thanks to 2005’s hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which Steve Carell portrays a collector of vintage toys who cherishes his Oscar Goldman action figure. The gregarious Anderson adorned his convention table with a couple of Oscar Goldman action figures and other memorabilia from the ’70s.

Anderson also played General George Meade in the 1993 film Gettysburg. One fan at the convention, a Civil War buff from Georgia, engaged Anderson in a detailed conversation about military strategy during the war. The fan, who had corresponded with Anderson through the mail, was thrilled to meet the actor in person and add to his collection of items signed by Gettysburg cast members. The entertaining discussion clearly illustrated that Anderson had done extensive research for his role as Meade.

Current and Future Pricing

Toy version of Robby the Robot.

Among the dozens of memorabilia dealers at the convention was Sean Linkenback of the Atlanta-based company Platinum Posters. He offered a Forbidden Planet title card priced at $1,480, and a lobby card for $440. “Demand for that title is always strong, not just from sci-fi collectors, but from movie collectors in general because it’s considered such an important film,” Linkenback said. “The Forbidden Planet one-sheet poster has sold for as high as $10,000, but it usually sells in the $6,000 to $7,000 range.”

Some dealers and collectors are stocking up on memorabilia in anticipation of a new version of the film. A proposed project to remake Forbidden Planet has been bouncing around Hollywood for years. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling) will write the screenplay. One director reportedly interested in the project is James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic). In the 2005 TV documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us, Cameron lauded Forbidden Planet, saying, “It was amazing as a technical accomplishment in its day, just for its scope, just for the scale of its imagination.”

Forbidden Planet signed cast photo.

When the remake finally does arrive in theaters, a new generation of cinema buffs will discover the wonders and horrors of the planet called Altair IV. Increased interest in the original film could result in higher prices for vintage memorabilia and, of course, for signatures from the trailblazing cast members.