Claudia Barrett, star of 1950s camp sci-fi flick ‘Robot Monster,’ dies at 91

A scene from the 1953 movie "Robot Monster," starring George Nader and Claudia Barrett. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Claudia Barrett, a 1950s TV actress who infamously shared the screen with a gorilla-suited alien in the campy sci-fi classic “Robot Monster,” died April 30 of natural causes at her Palm Desert, Calif., home. She was 91.

Barrett, who also was a poet and watercolor artist, was “loved by many people, and kept friends for life,” according to a family-written obituary for the Desert Sun. “She was known for her sweet personality, kindness, and cheerfulness. She was an excellent and thoughtful gift giver who loved Christmas and other holidays with her family.”

Born Imagene Williams on Nov 3, 1929 in Los Angeles, Barrett was enrolled in acting, singing and dancing lessons at a young age to overcome her extreme shyness, according to her family. Growing up in Van Nuys, she won the Miss Sherman Oaks local beauty content, studied at the Pasadena Playhouse after high school and signed with Warner Bros. as one of the last actors in the studio system.

Claudia Barrett in a scene from the film "The Happy Years" in 1950. (Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Barrett appeared in a number of films such as 1949’s “White Heat,” 1950’s “Chain Lightning” and 1950’s “The Great Jewel Robbery,” and spent much of the ’50s starring in a number of TV Westerns, including “Hopalong Cassidy,” “Cowboy G-Men,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Cisco Kid,” The Roy Rogers Show” and “Lawman.”

In 1953, she starred in the low-budget film “Robot Monster,” which many consider to be one of the worst films ever made. Played by George Barrows, the alien robot Ro-Man comes to Earth and kills most of humanity with his death ray, but spares Alice (Barrett),a scientist’s daughter, after he becomes attracted to her. In one of the most memorable scenes, Ro-Man carries her a la King Kong and Fay Wray.

A "Robot Monster" poster featuring, from left, Selena Royle, Claudia Barrett, John Mylong in 1953. (Photo: LMPC via Getty Images)

Historian Leonard Maltin called the film “one of the genuine legends of Hollywood:  embarrassingly, hilariously awful.”

By the mid-1960s, Barrett she switched to Hollywood jobs in film distribution and publicity, and her family wrote that she found “her dream job” in 1981 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences working in the division that produced the awards for scientific and technical advances.

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