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Posts Tagged ‘LOST’

“I did have a dream once that Alan Hale, the skipper of Gilligan’s Island, chased me through the streets of Hollywood.
Johnny Depp

“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.”
Shawny Nevill
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 HowellNatalie 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 IIIJim 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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“Movies are dying because they killed off the people who could make them, the writer and the director. They took away their identity.”
Ben Hecht
February 15, 1958

Yesterday, on the post The Shakespeare of Hollywood, I wondered what screenwriter Ben Hecht (Spellbound, Wuthering Heights) would think about TV and the Internet today.  In one of those happy accidents I found an 1958 interview that I think gives the answer.

Hecht was one of those guys you don’t meet much any more. He openly spoke his mind. If you didn’t agree with him he didn’t seem to care. He was what they used to call a colorful character. He died in 1964 before political correctness came into vogue. (Though he was concerned with growing censorship.) And though Hecht had a long distinguished screenwriting career, one of the things he liked to lambast was Hollywood. The main targets of his diatribes were greedy producers and how American films had dumbed down American culture. I found a link at the University of Texas that had a transcript for The Mike Wallace Interview where in 1958 Ben Hecht was a guest.

WALLACE:  You’ve said that (TV is) a babysitting industry cooing at the crowds, it threatens to turn us all into furniture.

HECHT: It will when it gets matured. When you get your screen eight by ten feet picture on the wall and color and three dimensions, I’m afraid America will lose the use of its legs.

So here we are just a little over 50 years down the road from Hecht’s comments. While in 2010 we may fall a little short of 8’X10′ screens—color, large screens, and 3-D are now here. The largest I could find on a quick search is a Panasonic 4K 3D 152-inch Plasma. (It appears to be about the same size as a 4’X6′ piece of plywood.)

And back when Hecht made that comment there would have only been three main TV stations. And it was the heyday of live TV drama when The Philco Television Playhouse provided writing opportunities for writers like Paddy Chayefsky and Horton Foote.  Of course, today all the many network and cable channels provide employment opportunities for all sorts of creative folks, including writers.

But when you step back and look at the overall kind of programing that is being produced you have to wonder what kind of culture we are helping to produce. Has the writing evolved as much as the technology? (Some say there is more crap on the air, but more good stuff as well.) Or are we creating simply creating “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? (A colorful character like Ben Hecht, the Shakespeare of Hollywood, might have said that described the final episode of LOST.)

Hey, did you see that video on You Tube where the dog wakes up and starts chasing its tail until it runs into a wall?…

Scott W. Smith



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When millions of people tune in tonight to watch the season six première of Lost (The Final Season), they won’t be thinking about the state of Iowa—but that doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have a Hawkeye connection. It actually has several.

Fans of the show know that fictional character Kate (Evangeline Lilly) was born and raised in Iowa. But a lot less people know that in real life both Michael Emerson (who plays Ben Linus) and Terry O’Quinn (who plays John Locke) have Iowa roots. When season five ended Ben Linus and John Locke were central figures in the final plot.

What are the odds of two actors going to college in Iowa 30 plus years ago ending up in the middle of a cultural TV phenomenon?

According to a news release at the University of Iowa, O’Quinn attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City back in ’74 & ’75 and Emerson received a BFA from Drake University in Des Moines in 1976.

According to the news release, “Both actors are also Emmy winners. O’Quinn won the Best Supporting Actor award in 2007 for his work as Locke. Emerson won for Outstanding Guest Actor/Drama in 2001 for his recurring character William Hinks, a psychotic serial killer, on the series The Practice.”

More proof that talent is talent and sometimes comes from unusual places.

Speaking of Emmys and Lost, I learned last week that a fellow I graduated from film school with (Jay Keiser) has been nominated twice for Primetime Emmy’s for sound design while working on the TV series Lost.

I look forward to this season to see how the writers pull all the storylines together.

Scott W. Smith

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Last night I finished the last episode of season five of LOST, so now I’m ready for the final season which starts next week. And for whatever reason the TV show Northern Exposure crossed my mind. Probably because that’s one of my top five TV programs of all time. Loved the small town and the interesting characters. Loved the writing.

I’ve always said I wanted to live in the fictitious town Cicely Alaska and I imagine it played into my psyche when I moved to Iowa almost seven years ago. (Though in real life my experience has been that if you want to visit a real life Cicely-like place try Ely, Minnesota or Talkeentna, Alaska.) But I find there are traces of Cicely, Alaska everywhere.

It’s hard to believe that Northern Exposure started airing 20 years ago. Can 1990 really be 20 years ago?  It was a simpler time before people were blogging, text messaging while driving, nor was there even the Internet as we know it. A time when part of the nation leaned on a DJ at KBHR for a little prime time philosophy.

Even if you didn’t agree with all his philosophy, you had to appreciate the words and the thought process (as well as John Corbett’s voice).

Goethe’s final words: “More light.” Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry: “More light.” Sunlight. Torchlight. Candelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier’s field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” “Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on!” “The night is dark, and I am far from home.” “Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come.” Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.
Chris in the morning (John Corbett)
Northern Exposure
Written by Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider

Scott W. Smith

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