“I did have a dream once that Alan Hale, the skipper of Gilligan’s Island, chased me through the streets of Hollywood.”
“The creators of Lost must have watched and dissected every episode of good ole Gilligan’s isle and took the craziest parts from it to use in their new show.”
Six Original and Creative Conicidences Between Lost and Gilligans Island
There is no question that Gilligan’s Island has had its shared of critics. Rick DuBrow of UPI once summoned up a lot of people’s view of the show by writing, “It is impossible that a more inept, moronic or humorless show has ever appeared on the home tube.” But there is also no question that the same show has more than its share of fans—even though the TV show was cancelled over forty years ago. (Of course, it’s never really gone off the air.)
And from a writer’s perspective you have to realize that the concept of being stranded on an island is fertile ground. Long before Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) there have been stories of living on deserted island. Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, Son of Awake) by a Spanish Muslim in the 12th century is said to be one of the first known deserted island stories.
I imagine the Greeks and Romans had deserted island plays and there is the shipwrecked story of the Apostle Paul in the Bible, Shakespeare touched on the concept in The Tempest, there have been true stories of related events like the one that inspired the original Robinson Crusoe story. And there have been several film versions of Robinson Crusoe including Luis Buñuel’s Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954) and the more recent version Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. There’s the long-lasting reality TV program Survivor, and of course, LOST—well, you get the picture. The whole idea of being stranded on an island brings up so many primal themes to explore; life & death, time, food, economy, community, sociology, psychology, theology, purpose & meaning, etc.
But let’s not forget we are talking about Gilligan’s Island here. To bring things a little more down to earth it was Dawn Wells (who played the wholesome girl from Kansas, Mary Ann) who said about the lasting affinity for Gilligan’s Island; “It’s really kind of fun how it holds up – nonsensical silly slapstick humor is what it was. Escapism is all it was, but it was one of the best there was.”
I thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper into the cast of Gilligan’s Island knowing there would be a quirky surprise or two.
Gilligan—Bob Denver was actually a political science major at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and before getting turned on to acting had thoughts of becoming a lawyer.
Mrs. Lovey Howell—Natalie Schafer was 63 years-old before she shot her first scene for Gilligan’s Island. She was a Broadway actress from New Jersey and didn’t do a film until after she was 40-years-old. Because of wise real-estate investments she was a multimillionaire. Because most of the cast did not get paid residuals for all those re-runs I imagine Schafer ended up the wealthiest of the entire cast. (Well, of the regular cast. Kurt Russell had a cameo as Jungle Boy in one episode and he’s had some $10-12 million dollar paydays on films, so unless he invested with Bernie Madoff he’s probably the wealthiest of all cast members.)
The Professor—Russell Johnson was born and raised in Pennsylvania and flew 44 combat missions for the Air Force during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart for being shot down in the Philippines. He used the GI bill to study acting and was in the Sci-Fi classic It Came from Outer Space.
Mary Ann—Dawn Wells was from Reno, Nevada where she became Miss Nevada and competed in the Miss America pageant in 1960. She attended Stephens College in Missouri where she studied chemistry and transferred to the University of Washington where she graduated with a degree in theater. Wells once said in an interview,”One of the hardest things starting the acting was eliminating the chemistry side of me and just concentrating on the emotional, artistic side of me.” For the past 50 years she has been a working actress is film, TV, and theater. She has a website DawnWells.com.
Ginger—Tina Louise who attended Miami University in Ohio, studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio in New York. (She studied with Lee Strasberg who also taught James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, and Al Pacino.) She also was a Broadway actress, a model and a night club singer before Gilligan’s Island.
Thurston Howell III—Jim Backus was born and raised in Cleveland where IMDB reported that one of his grade school teachers was Margaret Hamilton who went on to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Backus once had a top 40 song on the pop charts, was the voice of Mr. Magoo in cartoons, and in Rebel without a Cause was James Dean’s father.
The Skipper—Alan Hale’s father was an actor so he started acting in roles as a baby and had his last credit just two years before he died in 1990. He racked up over 200 Tv credits in his lifetime.
Wow, it’s like I won a bet to get Johnny Depp, Luis Buñuel, Shakespeare, the Apostle Paul and Mary Ann all into one post. Now if I could just find a version of the Gilligan’s Island theme sung by Jimmy Buffett I would know all is right in the world.
P.S. If you’re stuck between stories—or between scenes—just remember these magical worlds;”The weather started getting rough…”
Related post: The Serious Side to “Gilligan’s Island”
Scott W. Smith
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