Oh, that Gilligan. The Skipper’s “little buddy” may have ruined everyone’s chances of getting off the island, but at least we got more episodes of the show because of it.
Airing for three seasons, the show’s 98 episodes took viewers on a tropical journey that many still remember fondly today. Let’s revisit Gilligan’s Island and learn some amazing behind-the-scenes facts about the show and the people behind it.
We Loved Gilligan’s Island Because…
Many people enjoyed watching Gilligan accidentally sabotage their chances of rescue. Even so, we loved Gilligan and all of his bumbling ways anyhow. We also loved the Skipper, and Ginger, and the Professor.
We loved the Millionaire and his wife. And, of course, we loved Mary Ann. Because how could you not? They were all such fun characters to watch.
Gilligan’s Island Origins
Gilligan’s Island aired for three seasons and a total of 98 episodes. It aired on CBS in the late 1960s. There were also three movies filmed, and then it was in syndication for much of the 1970s and 1980s. Viewers loved the show and kept demanding more!
The series was spawned from the idea “What would you take with you on a desert island?” Producer Sherwood Schwartz decided to take this social microcosm and make it into a comedy. Needless to say, it worked.
The Cast Of Gilligan’s Island
The cast of Gilligan’s Island featured seven iconic characters that definitely made for interesting dynamics within various plots of the show. Unfortunately for them, these roles pretty much typecast each actor to the roles they played on this show, which would end up being a struggle for those who wanted to branch out into diverse acting roles.
Read on to see how these actors came to be on the show and what happened to them after the end of Gilligan’s Island.
Perhaps the evil plan for Gilligan was just to keep Ginger and Mary Ann to himself. His obvious lack of swagger would mean it’d be highly unlikely he would be able to connect with such stunning ladies in real life.
Producers figured it was basically every man’s dream to be trapped on a deserted island with two gorgeous women, right? You can’t blame Gilligan for trying despite failing every single time.
Mary Ann Had To Hide Her Navel
Mary Ann’s outfit always garnered lots of attention on Gilligan’s Island. With midriff-bearing crop tops and daisy dukes, Mary Ann was no stranger to showing some skin. Considering she was working alongside Tina Louise who played Ginger Grant, it’s no wonder she wanted to show off a little too!
Interestingly, networks wouldn’t allow anyone at the time to show off their navel, so Dawn Wells (who played Mary Ann) would often sew on extra fabric to her outfits to hide her belly button.
No Love On Gilligan’s Island
There were times that things almost happened between characters. Even Mrs. Howell got in on the matchmaking once. But it didn’t turn out well, as Mr. Howell got pretty agitated about it.
Poor Gilligan was forever alone, no matter how much it might seem that he was finally going to find romance on the show. Audiences just couldn’t help but feel bad for the little guy as he bumbled his way through life on the island.
Filming The Pilot
The original pilot was filmed on November 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated. The crew, despite knowing of this tragedy, had to continue work.
The original pilot also only included four of the seven cast members and had a different theme song. It featured a Calypso theme song that was written by the future film composer John Williams, who was later known best for his work writing the Star Wars theme song.
It Began As A Fateful Trip
“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man, the Skipper brave and sure, five passengers set sail that day, for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.”
There were technically four boats used as the SS Minnow in the series. Somehow they could never repair that hole or figure out another way off the island.
The Real Location
They say the mate was a mighty sailing man, the Skipper brave and sure, and five passengers who sailed away on a three-hour tour. Many people believe that this three-hour tour likely took place near Hawaii, and they would be right in that assumption.
In fact, the real island is very close to the shore of Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. So close, in fact, that you could swim there.
The Ship Was Lost, But Not Sunk
The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, The Minnow would be lost. Which technically it was, because no one rescued them. But they at least didn’t drown.
That would have ended the series before it even began. As it turns out, this seemngly random group of tourists was pretty darn good at surviving on a deserted island in the “middle of nowhere.”
The Skipper Loved His Uniform
The Skipper was played by Alan Hale Jr. Many fans don’t know that his father was a famous movie star who was a frequent sidekick of Errol Flynn.
Hale loved playing the Skipper so much he would sometimes show up dressed in character at his restaurant “The Lobster Barrel” in Los Angeles. He was a familiar sight at the restaurant and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty doing hard work.
The Millionaire And His Wife
The Millionaire and his wife were Thurston Howell the Third and Eunice Lovell Wentworth Howell, or “Lovey” as he referred to her. They were played by Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer. Backus, who voiced Mr. Magoo, another millionaire tycoon, used some of his mannerisms in the role.
The exact amount of the couple’s net worth is not mentioned on the show, but that never stopped fans from speculating about it.
The Movie Star
“The Movie Star,” Ginger Grant, was played by Tina Louise in the series and by two different actresses in the films. She was to play the role as a Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield type, and boy did she nail it.
In 1958, Louise was named the “World’s Most Beautiful Redhead” by the National Art Council. Many of her fans agree with the title. As of 2020, she is in her late 80s.
The Two Professors
Professor Roy Hinkley, usually known simply as “the Professor” was played by Russell Johnson. In the pilot episode, he was played by John Gabriel, but the network decided Gabriel looked too young to have all the degrees the Professor was supposed to have.
Johnson was also known for playing Marshal Gib Scott in Black Saddle, but it’s clearly his work on Gilligan’s Island that he was most recognized for his entire life.
Mary Ann: The Island’s Girl Next Door
Mary Ann, played by Dawn Wells, was the epitome of the “girl next door.” She was a country gal and was beloved by many. She always received numerous marriage proposals in her fan mail.
Dawn Wells was born in Reno, Nevada, and went on to major in chemistry in college. She clearly has beauty and brains, and was crowned Miss Nevada in 1960 before eventually getting started on her acting career.
Drama Surrounded The Show’s Cancelation
The wife of CBS executive William S. Paley apparently did not enjoy the antics of Ginger, Mary Ann, and their fellow castaways. So, sadly for fans, Gilligan’s Island was abruptly canceled so the network could start airing Gunsmoke. This was Paley’s wife’s favorite show.
The Gilligan’s Island cast had already been celebrating their show’s renewal for a third season and everyone was stunned to learn of the cancelation. Gunsmoke did really well in Gilligan’s former timeslot, to the delight of the Paleys.
The Series Finale
What was to be a three-hour tour, turned into three years. Well, actually it was probably forever since the final episode ended just like all the other episodes. Since there was no known cancellation of the series at the time, a true “series finale” was never written.
The last episode of the show, “Gilligan the Goddess,” aired on April 17, 1967, and ended just like the rest, with the castaways still stranded on the island. How sad for them.
Dawn Wells, AKA Mary Ann, Became Bogged Down In Debt
In 2018, actress Dawn Wells started a GoFundMe account in an attempt to pay off her massive amount of debt. Wells admitted that her debt has snowballed out of control due to medical bills and investment losses, and had reached $200,000.
She asked her fans to help raise the money, hoping she can collect enough to move into a nice assisted care facility. Many fans were happy to step up to the plate and help out.
Appeals To Fans Of All Ages
For people now in their 30s and 40s, this is what you may have watched when you were home from school sick, along with other syndicated TV shows at the time, such as Gomer Pyle, Fantasy Island, and Love Boat. Gilligan’s Island was in syndication for over 20 years.
Keep reading to learn more about what your favorite characters were up to behind the scenes. You won’t believe what the actress who played Mary Ann received in her fan mail. (Or what kind of trouble she later found herself getting into.)
Here On Gilligan’s Island
The iconic theme song, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” was created by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle. Professor and Marianne were also “and the rest” in the original season. But in seasons 2 and 3 they received credit.
The reason for the change was that Bob Denver personally asked studio executives to add Johnson and Wells to the song. He even said to leave his character’s name out of it if the others weren’t going to be included.
Themes Used On The Show
There were about five different recurring themes on Gilligan’s Island. The most popular is where they are trying to escape but Gilligan messes it up. Some other themes include other people coming to the island as visitors, and also random dream sequences.
It took a lot of creativity to come up with new plotlines for every episode, considering that the main characters and location really didn’t change up at all.
The Professor’s Inventions
Sometimes, they would also get news from the outside world on their radio that was about them or their loved ones. And of course, the perilous random objects that would show up on the beach. It was pretty amazing what the Professor could whip up with some coconuts, bamboo, and lost luggage.
How frustrating that none of these brilliant ideas and creations ever got them rescued and taken back to their real lives!
Gilligan’s Island Goes Native
Occasionally they mixed it up and bring in some “natives.” Here, a native girl on the island wants to marry Gilligan. You could still call this a visitor, but really our lost crew would be the visitors then, and it would be a whole different show altogether.
“Natives” is the generic term used by the show for the local tribes on the island that the castaways found themselves stranded on.
That Voodoo You Do
The witch doctor didn’t care for Gilligan… perhaps he could see into his soul. He stole personal items from each of the castaways and put some kind of voodoo curse on them, turning the Professor into a zombie briefly. Like many subplots on Gilligan’s Island, this story was left unresolved.
The role of the Witch Doctor was played by Eddie Little Sky, an Indigenous North American actor of the Oglala Lakota tribe.
Many Failed Escapes
“Failed escapes” was by far the most popular theme and what most people associate with the show. Clumsy Gilligan somehow would cause a minor disaster that would prevent any opportunity for rescue or escape.
Viewers didn’t really seem to get tired of all the mistakes, as it kept the characters on the island for another round of entertaining adventures! In fact, part of the show’s appeal was guessing how Gilligan was going to mess up a “sure thing.”
The Island’s Visitors
The show featured lots of cameo appearances from popular stars of the time, in the form of visitors to the island. Some visitors included The Monkees, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and The Gorilla on the island (played by actor Janos Prohaska).
A particularly memorable guest performance was given by comedian Don Rickles. And a later television movie features the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team! You never knew who was going to show up on the island next.
Random Dream Sequences
Random dream sequences were a nice break from island living. These fanciful dreams were sometimes brought on by weird berries, and they allowed the show to be more fanciful. Gilligan was usually a let-down in his own dreams as well, making you feel a little sorry for the fella.
The dream sequences provided a change of scenery and a slew of new opportunities for fun and adventure (and in the case of Gilligan, new things to mess up!).
All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go
Sometimes the characters got to wear fancy costumes and visit different time periods. They didn’t play themselves and these were some of the actors’ favorite episodes.
Glamorous Ginger got an especially exciting wardrobe since she was the “mobvie star.” Her gowns were designed by Nolan Miller, who won an Emmy for his work on Dynasty two decades later. He later said, “I got a call from a producer saying they were doing a show and they had a girl who was like a showgirl, I think, is what they told me.”
News From The Outside World
News from the outside world usually struck some type of discord. But it usually proved to be false. The characters would hear information about one of their own previous lives, or about life itself, only to find it retracted later.
No matter what, and no matter how much they got their hopes up, the characters all seemed to be pretty resigned to their fate as castaways when each episode ended.
Random objects would occasionally wash ashore. Usually, there was an additional danger or challenge, such as when a crate washed up that turned out to be plastic explosives. Whoops, Gilligan shouldn’t have put that in his teeth!
These objects were usually a pretty exciting find for the Professor, because he was able to create some amazing new inventions from them. He never gave up either, no matter how many times Gilligan foiled the escape plans.
Three films were made beginning 10 years after Gilligan’s Island stopped airing. All were made for television and none featured Tina Louise as Ginger, as there were contract disagreements. The films were to help add some closure to the sudden end to the show.
The movies were: The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, and Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. A fourth film was made much later, entitled Surviving Gilligan’s Island.
Rescue From Gilligan’s Island
In Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, a 1978 made-for-television comedy film, the castaways actually leave the island. However, they have trouble reintegrating into society. Eventually, due to fate and circumstances, they wind up back on the island. In short: Gilligan’s Island was the original Lost.
This one starred Bob Denver and Alan Hale, Jr., and it featured all of the original cast members except for Tina Louise.
The Castaways Of Gilligan’s Island
The Castaways of Gilligan’s Island was the second film from the series. This sequel aired in 1979, and they are rescued again. But they eventually decide to stop fighting fate. This time the Howells create a resort on the island.
Most of the original cast also appeared in this one, with the exception of Tina Louise again. She was replaced by actress Judith Baldwin, who also had parts on I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas.
All A Fantasy
The premise and storyline on how they get on and off the island is pretty ridiculous. It involves planes they never noticed for 15 years, Gilligan parachuting, and his inevitable rescue.
But in the end, the Howells run a beautiful resort (which is a tribute to their time stranded) in which all the castaways are made silent partners. The whole thing becomes a bit like The Love Boat meets Fantasy Island.
The Harlem Globetrotters On Gilligan’s Island
One of the more interesting ideas for a sequel was using the entertaining Harlem Globetrotters in a television movie. This took place as a sequel to The Castaways of Gilligan’s Island on the now-resort island run by the castaways.
This third film was released in 1981. The famous Harlem Globetrotters and Martin Landau, who plays a villain, set to take over the island because of valuable resource. It involved robots and basketball.
That Western Gilligan’s Island Never Worked Out
Gilligan’s Island was obviously a massive success. Schwartz was pretty unable to top his massive winning streak. While most of us would’ve thrown in the towel after the series called it quits and rested on our laurels, Schwartz wanted to go big or go home. Because of the success of Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz decided to a show with the same premise, only this time it’d be a western.
We’re not sure how he could’ve possibly thought that would work out. The show was called Dusty’s Trail, and you probably don’t remember it because it was a massive flop.
The end of the Roseanne/Gilligan’s Island episode featured Bob Denver, Tina Louise and Dawn Wells playing the opposite roles in the show (Jackie, Roseanne and Becky). The actors were even costumed in the cast members’ wardrobe. It was a surprise ending for first time viewers.
As seen in this still shot, Bob Denver and Tina Louise have their Roseanne characters down pretty well, despite the obvious differences! Gilligan looks great in that sweater and earrings.
Mary Ann For The Win… Or Is It Ginger?
The biggest question from the fans was not about how the batteries kept working on the radio, or why the hole in the boat could not be fixed. It was who do you prefer: Ginger or Mary Ann?
The TODAY show even discussed the topic when Dawn Wells turned 74: it’s “a classic pop-psychological question that’s as much about personality and expectations as good looks, since both Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) and Mary Ann Summers (Wells) were — and are — lovely.”
Guess Who Might Have Been Mary Ann?
During the casting process, Raquel Welch auditioned for the part of Mary Ann. But Welch, who was later ranked #3 by Playboy on their “100 Sexiest Stars of the Twentieth Century” list, doesn’t really fit the “girl next door” look producers were going for. The classic “Ginger or Mary Ann” argument would have been very different with Ms. Welch on set.
Although she didn’t get this part, things worked out just fine for Welch in the end. Ever hear of a movie called One Million Years BC?
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree
They may not be blood-related, but being on a show for so long together pretty much makes you family. Unfortunately for Bob Denver, who played titular character Gilligan, this sort of rings true as he, too, was arrested on charges of possession. A package was delivered to his home in 1998, after which he was arrested and released on $1,000 bond.
He reportedly had told authorities that the package was from his co-star Dawn Wells, but didn’t name her when he was arraigned in court. Later, police allegedly found more of the paraphernalia in his home and he subsequently pleaded no contest, receiving six months of probation.
Denver was a physical education, math, and history teacher before he landed his first acting gig as Maynard G. Krebs on the early 1960s sitcom, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, playing the titular character’s best friend. During this time he had small roles on various films on other television shows, which allowed him more exposure to public audiences. By the time his first sitcom ended, he had landed the role of Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, which is what he is best known for to this day.
He was not the producer’s first choice for the role, as producers originally offered it to Jerry Van Dyke, who turned down the role because he thought the show would not take off. Boy, was he wrong.
Alan Hale Jr.’s Film and TV Career
Alan Hale Jr. boasted quite impressive acting credentials before his role as The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island. His father was Rufus Edward McKahan, known professionally as Alan Hale the legendary actor and director, and his mother was Gretchen Hartman, a silent film actress. Hale Jr. made his acting debut in 1931 on Broadway and transitioned into film acting a couple years later.
He had guests spots on numerous television shows such as Bonanza, Lassie, and The Andy Griffith Show. Hale Jr. even enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, which may have helped him when he landed the role as The Skipper.
Jim Backus Was More Than The Millionaire
Jim Backus did so much more than act as the Millionaire on Gilligan’s Island! He also played James Dean’s character’s father in Rebel Without a Cause (pictured here), did the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, and had his own show! It was called The Jim Backus Show, also known as Hot Off the Wire.
He was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Jim Backus passed away in 1989.
Natalie Schafer’s Little Secret
Schafer began her career on Broadway as early as 1927, often taking on supporting roles. In 1941, she moved to Los Angeles to forge a film career. She is best known for her role as “The Millionaire’s wife,” Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell, on Gilligan’s Island. She reportedly originally took the role since the pilot was filmed on location in Hawaii, which she saw as a free vacation.
Little did she know, the show would take off and she would go on to reprise her role for spin-off shows and films after Gilligan’s Island ended. It is reported that her contract stated that no close-up shots were allowed of her face, probably to mask her true age, which she was notorious for not revealing.
In Her Final Years…
Schafer was actually a millionaire in real life, after making some real estate investments that turned out to be quite profitable in the long run. She lived until the grand old age of 90, passing away due to liver cancer. In her later years, she lived with co-star Dawn Wells, who actually maintained excellent relationships with her fellow cast members.
Wells was Schafer’s caretaker while she was battling her ailments and when Schafer passed away, she reportedly left a good sum of her fortunes to Wells.
Dawn Wells Before Life On The Island
Dawn Wells is most popular for her role as Mary Ann Summers, the “girl-next-door” on Gilligan’s Island. Before she was an actress, she actually was the girl-next-door type in real life, attending Stephens College in Missouri before she transferred to Seattle’s University of Washington.
During her tenure as a typical college student, she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega and she earned her degree in theater arts and design in 1960. She went on to compete in pageants, being crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and representing the state in the 1960 Miss America pageant.
Tina Louise Was A Diva
When Tina Louise was in high school, she was only known as Tina Blacker. She allegedly told her drama teacher at the time that she didn’t have a middle name and he suggested Louise, which apparently stuck with her throughout her acting career. She was a model and Broadway actress before she made her Hollywood film debut in 1958, soon becoming a sought-after leading lady. In 1964, she left Broadway and film to play “The Movie Star” Ginger Grant on Gilligan’s Island.
She would end up being dissatisfied with the role, often clashing with producers over how Ginger should be portrayed. She made claims that the role has typecast her, ruining her career and other opportunities for serious roles.
Russell Johnson’s Heroic Past
Before he was “The Professor” on Gilligan’s Island, Johnson was actually a lieutenant bombardier for the U.S. Army Air Forces. He served during World War II earning various decorations for his time in the military, even a Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged as first lieutenant in 1945, subsequently joined the Reserves, and used the G.I. Bill to pay for acting school.
He, too, was typecast in due to his role in Gilligan’s Island, but has accepted the fact and was still able to maintain a sufficient acting career in television.
Sherwood Schwartz’s Legacy
So who is the mastermind who stranded these seven castaways on an uncharted island? You can thank television producer Sherwood Schwartz. Schwartz originally came to Southern California to pursue a Master’s in Biology but began writing jokes for Bob Hope to earn extra money.
The gig stuck, as Hope loved his work and offered him a job as a part of his writing staff. Schwartz went on to create two of American television’s most iconic shows: Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch.
Who Was On The Radio?
If you ever wondered who voiced the announcer on the radio that the castaways used to keep in touch with the rest of the world, then you can attribute that voice to actor and producer Charles Maxwell. He was frequently cast as a guest on westerns such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman.
In 1968 he even appeared on an episode of Star Trek. Although most of his roles were very short-lived, his longest-running role was that of the radio announcer on Gilligan’s Island, which he was not credited for.
Gilligan’s Crossovers: Alf
In addition to Roseanne as mentioned in previous slides, the castaways would often reprise their roles on other television shows. They were featured in an episode of the late 1980s sci-fi sitcom, Alf. In the episode, Alf is obsessed with the charm of Gilligan’s Island, watching marathons and trying to relive the “endless fun” that the Gilligan’s Island cast always seems to be having. He even goes so far as to create a lagoon in his family’s backyard, getting punished for it by having to refill the hole.
While completing the task, he falls asleep and dreams himself into the world of Gilligan’s Island. It is present-day 1987 on the island, however, and he is dismayed to discover that Gilligan and the rest of the gang are not very happy to still be living on the island.
Gilligan On Baywatch?
Yup, Gilligan and some of the gang found themselves on the iconic 1990s action hit, Baywatch. In an episode of Baywatch‘s second season, Eddie hits his head after slipping in the sand, and after a series of events he ends up on an island where he encounters Gilligan and Mary Ann. After taking the two back to the Baywatch headquarters the rest of the Baywatch crew embarks on a journey to find the rest of the castaways, only to end up as castaways themselves. I
t takes time for them to repair the boat, but only two people can sail to freedom. After drawing straws, it is decided that Gilligan and Mary Ann will go, leaving everyone else behind. In the end, Eddie wakes up in the Baywatch headquarters again, wondering if it was all a dream.
The New Adventures Of Gilligan
The success of Gilligan’s Island and its sequels have sparked a few spin-off series. The New Adventures of Gilligan was an animated series produced by Filmation. It was one of the Saturday morning cartoons that aired on ABC from 1974 to 1977.
All of the original cast was enlisted to voice the characters for the show, except for Dawn Wells, who was on the road for a play, and Tina Louise, who no longer wanted to be associated with the role of Ginger Grant. The cartoon featured a monkey sidekick for Gilligan and ended each episode with a lesson learned.
Gilligan’s Planet was a follow-up to The New Adventures of Gilligan. Also produced by Filmation, the show originally aired on Saturday mornings but new episodes were made when it was put on syndication. Dawn Wells voiced both Mary Ann and Ginger.
In the show, the castaways managed to build a spaceship, launching into space, only to get stranded on a distant planet. The show aired on CBS from 1982 to 1983.
The third spin-off was actually a series that was created by Sherwood Schwartz himself. Dusty’s Trail aired from 1973 and 1974 and was about a 19th-century wagon train on its way to California. One of the wagons got separated from the train, leaving its two coachmen and five passengers to find their own way back.
Although Dusty’s Trail was not directly based off of Gilligan’s Island, it’s characters were all loosely based off the seven castaways featuring a wagon master, a scout for the wagon train, a rich couple, a science professor, a school teacher, and a saloon girl.
Gilligan’s Island: The Musical
A musical stage production of Gilligan’s Island was created in the early 1990s and features work from talented folks that aren’t far off from Sherwood Schwartz. Schwartz’s son, Lloyd Schwartz, wrote the script for the production and his daughter, Hope, wrote the songs with the help of her husband.
Since 2001, various theaters throughout the United States have put on productions of the iconic series, such as the high school students pictured here.
Shortly after Gilligan’s Island premiered, the U.S. Coast Guard actually received telegrams from citizens who claimed they saw American citizens stranded on an island in the Pacific Ocean. These telegrams urged the Coast Guard to come to the castaways’ rescue, but the Coast Guard merely forwarded these odd messages to producer
Sherwood Schwartz. Schwartz himself was baffled that there were viewers out there who believed that the cast was actually stranded and didn’t realize that it was just a TV show.
Gilligan’s First Name Is Willy
When CBS gave Sherwood Schwartz the green light, he knew he had to create some iconic names for his misfit cast. Schwartz combed through the phone book to find names for his characters, which is where he came up with “Willy Gilligan.”
Gilligan’s first name isn’t really said in the series, and Bob Denver swears that his characters first name is Gilligan (not his last name), but isn’t that a fabulous name for such a goofy, dim-witted, but lovable character? Schwartz stands by his assertion that Gilligan was, is and always will be Willy Gilligan.
Natalie Schafer Did Her Own Stunts
Natalie Schafer was a total pro on the set on Gilligan’s Island. She was extremely tough – which is not something you’d expect from a 60-year-old TV star. Though she was in her 60s during filming, she insisted on doing most of her own stunts – whichever the executive would allow. This included everything from jumping into lagoons or sinking in quicksand.
This is a huge contrast from Natalie’s character. Natalie took the pilot because it was being filmed in Hawaii (hello free vacation), but she was the opposite of Eunice’s prissy demeanor. She wasn’t afraid to get down into the nitty-gritty of things, though she didn’t like to reveal her true age. (What person does?)
The Skipper Was The Most Difficult To Cast
By now, we all know that Alan Hale was cast as the loveable Skipper. The Skipper was the last character cast on the show and the one casting directors seemed to have the most trouble with. Out of dozens of actors, they couldn’t find a single person who fit the bill. It was a pretty tall order.
Schwartz wanted an actor who was both short-tempered and bossy but able to show a soft side towards Gilligan – even after he’d already lost his temper. This required an actor who skilled with nuance and believably good-hearted underneath a tough exterior.
Alan Hale Auditioned For The Skipper While On Horseback
At the time, Hale was filming Bullet for a Bad Man in St. George, Utah. He left the set to audition for the Skipper but was pressed for time in order to make it back to Utah to finish filming his western. He ended up reading for the part while on horseback, hitchhiking, riding in a taxi cab, and flying on an airplane.
He made it back in time to finish filming the following day and also landed the part as the Skipper. We’re sort of wondering how it would’ve gone if Hale auditioned on an actual boat. We’re guessing, it wouldn’t be so smooth (at least if he was actually the Skipper).
The Millionaire Was A Cheapskate In Real Life
Ironically, Jim Backus, who played the role of Thurston Howell the Third, the millionaire, was a total cheapskate in real life. Undoubtedly, Backus was loved by the cast. He often coached less-experienced actors on things like ad-lib and punchline delivery. He was a total pleasure to be around, but boy, was he cheap.
Dawn Wells spoke about a time during Gilligan’s Island’s first season when Backus invited her and a friend to lunch. Conveniently, Backus left his wallet back at the studio, a trick he’d pull more than a couple times. Scandalous!
Dawn Wells Continued To Get Paid For Her Role On Gilligan’s Island
The actors on Gilligan’s Island all signed pretty standard contracts. They each got a certain amount of money per original episode and a residual payment for each time the episodes re-aired (up to five times). This was not the case for Dawn Wells. Dawn Wells was a bit smarter.
At the time, Dawn was married to Larry Rosen, an industry agent who advised her to ask for a different agreement – to be paid a residual every time the show ran reruns, not just the first five times. Because of this, Dawn was the only cast member who still got paid for her work on the show. Sadly, she passed away in December of 2020.
Gilligan’s Island Had Fans Everywhere
Gilligan’s Island may have never made into the number one spot for CBS, but it was still wildly popular. It appealed to such a wide range of people that cast members ended up meeting fans from all walks of life. Because of this, Russell Johnson spoke at a biochemical conference in San Francisco (though we’re not sure how much an actor would know about biochemical engineering).
Bob Denver also had a weird – but flattering – encounter with some fans. When he showed up at a restaurant with his wife, the band went from playing classical music to the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
The Skipper Broke His Arm On Set But Didn’t Tell Anyone
We’re not sure how the Skipper got away with this one, but it proves he was insanely dedicated to his job. One day during filming, Alan Hale broke his arm falling out of a coconut tree. He didn’t even mention it to the film crew because he didn’t want to disrupt filming.
During the next scenes, he had to literally lift Gilligan and heavy coconuts with a broken arm. Schwartz asked Hale, “How did you manage to heave coconuts and lift Bob Denver with a broken arm?” Hale replied, “It wasn’t easy.”
The Professor And Mary Ann Weren’t In The Opening Credits
During the entire first season of Gilligan’s Island, the opening credits ended with a photo of Ginger as the theme song went “movie star…and the rest.” Unfortunately “the rest” didn’t include the Professor and Mary Ann. Tina Louise had it in her contract that she would be the last name listed in the opening credits. When the show was renewed, Denver fought to add Russell and Dawn to the opening credits because the Professor and Mary Ann were important cast members.
This led to an argument over Louise’s contract, where Denver threatened that his contract said he could put his name anywhere in the credits he wanted, so he could easily take Louise’s coveted closing spot. An agreement was quickly made.
Tina Louise Wasn’t The Star She Wanted To Be
Gilligan’s Island wasn’t without some spats on set – as is probably true for almost any TV show. Apparently, there was some on-set tension between major cast members and Tina Louise. Tina often removed herself from the rest of the cast. She would sit away from them while they joked and chatted.
This was apparently because she was mad about her role. Her agent had told her she was going to be the star of the show, but when it came down to it, she had to share the spotlight.
The Gilligan’s Island Pilot Was Quite Different From The Actual Series
A TV pilot is always a test to show network executives what your show has to offer. It’s not uncommon for a pilot to totally change when it gets put into real episodes. Gilligan’s Island changed a lot from the pilot episode to the actual series. The original cast of characters included two secretaries and a high school teacher.
It also had a completely different theme song. In 1992 the pilot episode was finally aired and people got to see how the show originally was cast. Nothing can beat the magic of the original series.
The Skipper’s Name Was Jonah Grumby (And It Was Hardly Ever Said)
The Skipper’s actual name wasn’t Skipper – that’s just a nickname! His real name was Jonah Grumby, and it was only ever uttered in full during the pilot episode of the show. The Skipper has an intense military background, which is perhaps why it’s fitting that all the flags in the opening are held at half-mast to honor JFK’s death.
The Skipper was supposed to have served with both John F. Kennedy and McHale’s navy. We’re still wondering if he was so well trained, how it was nearly impossible to fix a hole in the bottom of a boat? Oh well!
The Boat In Gilligan’s Island Was Named After The Head Of The FCC
Sherwood Schwartz was definitely taking a shot at the FCC with this one. Gilligan’s Island never had the explicit content that’s constantly under FCC scrutiny like modern shows such as South Park, but for some reason Schwartz still wanted to stick it to them. At the time, Newton Minow was the chairman of the FCC.
He had described modern television as “a vast wasteland.” Because of his description, Schwartz thought it’d be funny to name the broken boat the S.S. Minnow after Newton. That’s a pretty good burn, right?
The Tour Was Originally A Whole Lot Different
The S.S. Minow was supposedly on a three-hour tour. It’s kind of hard to imagine to a ship completely disappearing in just three hours, but such is the story of Gilligan’s Island. In the original pilot, the tour was a lot different and a lot more believable. The S.S. Minnow was supposed to have set out on a six-hour tour.
In the original theme song (that hokey version penned by Star Wars’ film scorer), the voice sang “a six-hour tour…a six-hour tour.” It just doesn’t sound the same.
The Wellingtons Were The Band That Sang The Theme Song
The Wellingtons performed the Gilligan’s Island’s theme song and appeared as The Mosquitos in an episode of Gilligan’s Island They also had another popular theme song called “the Ballad of Davy Crocket” and were regulars on the TV series Shindig!
The Wellingtons were originally called the Lincolns and signed to Walt Disney to record a theme song for The Wonderful World of Color. The theme song for the TV mini-series Davy Crockett was their most popular work, which most recently, was added to the soundtrack of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Throughout the Wellingtons’ career, they toured with major acts like The Supremes and Stevie Wonder.
Martin Landau And Barbara Bain Last Appeared Together On Gilligan’s Island
Gilligan’s Island had a goofy TV movie starring the Harlem Globetrotters. Though most fans didn’t get the plot, they did enjoy some of the actors’ chemistry. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were married actors. The couple was used to starring together and had previously had roles in Mission Impossible and Space 1999.
The Gilligan’s Island TV movie featuring the Harlem Globetrotters was the couple’s last appearance together. The couple originally separated for some time in the ’80s but in 1993, they decided to call it quits for good and got a divorce.