Aw, we all fondly remember the S.S. Minnow’s castaways from Gilligan’s Island. With its endless reruns, it has become one of the longest running shows ever. Fans loved to watch the castaways try to escape for not just three seasons, but also three films. Actually, most of the watching has probably been done after the show aired from those reruns! CBS’s Gilligan’s Island is creator Sherwood Schwartz’s greatest hit, well besides his other show, The Brady Bunch. But we aren’t here to tell the story of a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls or the story of a man named Brady who was busy with three boys of his own.
Anyway, audiences could not tear themselves from the shenanigans on Gilligan’s Island. From stars like Alan Hale Jr. and Natalie Schafer to Russel Johnson, Tina Louise, Jim Backus and Dawn Wells, it’s easy to see why the show became a hit. Oh, how could we forget the amazing Bob Denver who played Gilligan! Each one of these stars became forever known as their characters on Gilligan’s Island. So, that’s how Gilligan’s Island became one of America’s best sitcoms in history! Seriously, who doesn’t love the hysterical show? There’s nothing quite like it!
Yes, the show aired in the 60’s, but most remember watching reruns during the 70’s, 80’s and later. Obviously, it wasn’t only Bob Denver pulling in viewers time and time again to this incredible show. Though we have to admit the show would not be the same without its goofy lead. Actually, some of the stars and crew never expected it to become such a huge success, but we will get to that soon enough.
Between Gilligan, Mary Ann, Ginger Grant and the Professor, Gilligan’s Island was really full of interesting castaways to be trapped together. No matter what they tried, they could never seem to get themselves off the island! Wow, can you imagine being stuck on an island with that wild group? Well, it wasn’t just the characters who had bold personalities. Years after the show aired, we want to reveal all that fans should hear about behind the scenes! Now, you can finally hear what was kept under wraps and all about the actors and actresses who played the beloved characters. Also we will reveal who was really supposed to be cast in what role.
No Outfit Repeats
So, the backstory with Mary Ann and Ginger is that they had taken a three hour boat tour. However, have you ever considered how these two women somehow had entire wardrobes with them? Surprisingly, neither even repeated an outfit. Miraculously, they had enough clothing to wear a new outfit each and every day they were on the island. I mean, maybe they just wanted the audience to suspend their belief momentarily.
Name That Skipper!
Most fans probably though that Skipper was the only name that the character had. Actually, that is not true. In the pilot back in 1964, his full name was revealed on the show. His real name…Jonas Grumby. Now, think back to when Alan Hale Jr.’s character died and they scattered his ashes. Someone remarked, “It’s what ‘The Skipper’ would have wanted.” Guess even they did not recall his true name.
Breaking The Fourth Wall
Perhaps, you have heard of the fourth wall, that’s the term for the space between actors and the crew/audience. As you probably remember, Skipper often broke the fourth wall when he looked right at the camera and made a face. This was not very common at the time. Also, there were plans for a fourth movie, but we will get to that later.
Influencing His Character
In real life, Alan Hale Jr. called lots of people, ‘little buddy.’ Thus, art imitated life. They used Alan’s tic to draw inspiration for his character. So, Skipper began calling Gilligan (Bob Denver) ‘little buddy’ since they thought it also fit Alan’s character’s demeanor.
What a guy! Actor Bob Denver, although he had nothing to worry about as the lead, was bothered that Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson were not named in the credits. Thus, he decided to take initiative. Denver insisted they were named. Also, speaking of Gilligan, the star Jerry Van Dyke actually turned down the part. Dyke said, “But that’s the joke: I turned it down and took My Mother the Car. But, again, it was really good, because I’d [have] been forever known as Gilligan. So that worked out, too.”
Reason For Half Mast
Something tragic happened in real life that led to the show having the American flags fly at half mast. So, filming started just after the JFK assassination! Thus, you may have seen the half mast flag during the opening credits. They finished filming their pilot on November 22, 1963, which is when President John F. Kennedy was shot.
Since it’s been years, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to let this one out of the bag. While the show was aired a man named Newton Minow headed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Creator Sherwood Schwartz absolutely hated this man. Therefore, he invented a clever inside joke with the Gilligan’s Island crew. He named the shipwreck….the S.S. Minnow. Perhaps, Minow never even realized!
Not So Practical
During the whole first season, we watched the characters on the show sip from authentic coconut cups. Turns out, this was not very practical since they were porous. So, the coconut cups ended up getting ruined fast. So, after the first season they made the switch to ceramic cups that looked like coconuts. Honestly, we’re impressed by all the coconut milk our favorite characters kept in!
Ginger’s Bottomless Bag
Back to the outfits for a minute. I mean we spoke about Ginger’s surplus of clothing, but what about the diversity of her wardrobe! I mean wow, for only planning a short trip, she sure had quite the options. Ginger was ready for any and everything. She had gowns, dresses, workout clothes and so much more. Sure, some clothing continually washed up, but it all seemed strange.
Speaking of clothing, now we have to talk about Dawn Wells. Wells actually thought long and hard about her costumes for the show. She knew as the other young woman on the show, everyone would compare her to Tina Louise, who had the role of Ginger. Thus, in order to make up for a shorter stature, Wells decided her costume should show a lot of leg. She opted for short shorts but this was a time when navels were not supposed to be shown on TV. Therefore, Dawn Wells added some extra fabric in order to conceal her belly button. Even with the extra fabric, her flashy outfits caused some stir. I mean, it was the first time anyone wore shorts on a show.
Naturally, many of the stars from Gilligan’s Island have since passed away. In addition, creator Schwartz is also gone. As far as the main cast, only Dawn Wells and Tina Louise are still alive. Everyone hopes these talented women stay around much longer!
She Didn’t Tell A Soul
Now, here’s a little secret that was kept for the entirety of the show. Of course, Natalie Schafer played Mrs. Howell. What you didn’t know is that the actress lied to the entire cast, producers and crew the whole time about her actual age. Schafer refused to tell anyone her real age. Eventually, the truth came out. Actress Natalie Schafer was a whole 13 years older than her counterpart on the show, actor Jim Backus. She didn’t want anyone to know that her and her TV husband had such a large age gap.
Special Mention In Her Contract
Actually, there’s more to the story than that. Within Natalie Schafer’s contract she had them write in a special clause for her. In that clause, she had them promise there would be no close-up shots of her. This was in order to hide her wrinkles. Schafer did not want fans to see even one wrinkle. Thus, her 13 year age difference with Jim Backus would not be noticed. Hm, interesting.
Fans of the show remember that characters were receiving radio transmissions through a Packard Bell model AM radio. Well, the crew added a telescoping antenna to try and make things a bit more believable. Maybe that would allow audiences to suspend their beliefs a bit or reason that the antenna allowed long distance messages to come through. In real life, that radio model didn’t have an antenna, let alone a handle.
Inventive Prop Team
Yes, a lot of the plot lines involved making wild technology with found scraps on the island. Obviously, this was a challenge behind the scenes for the prop team. In order to pull this off, they had to be really inventive with only a small collection of random objects. Many now see it as Macgyvering, well before it even existed!
Next Big Idea
Just before Gilligan’s Island came to an end, producers came up with a new character to combat the decline. Their idea was that a new character would be enough to spice up the show. They hoped for a friendly dinosaur, but sadly, this would be too costly. Schwartz recalled the CBS executive named Hunt Stromberg Jr. saying, “Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to ‘Mr. Ed.’”
A Wild Ride
Miraculously, Alan Hale Jr. made it to the Gilligan’s Island audition. Why was it so extraordinary? Well, he first hopped onto a horse from a set he was at in Utah. The next step involved him hitchhiking all the way to Las Vegas! Stay with us, from there he flew to L.A. and that’s where he auditioned. Thank goodness he got to audition for Jonas ‘The Skipper’ Grumpy because we can’t imagine another Skipper.
First or Last Name?
You probably wondered what was up with Gilligan over the course of the show. Meaning, did this guy have a first name? No one ever mentioned one. After the show ended, Sherwood Schwartz revealed that Gilligan’s first name was Willy. Creator Schwartz even confessed this about actor Bob Denver, saying, “He thinks Gilligan is his first name, and I think it’s his last name. Because in the original presentation, it’s Willy Gilligan. But he doesn’t believe it, and he doesn’t want to discuss it. He insists the name is Gilligan.”
A $20K Skirt
Character Mary Ann Summers was every man and young boy’s crush. All the women adored this incredibly talented actress. Although, it was more than her personality that fans will always remember. Did you know that one skirt the character wore for the show sold for an outrageous sum? Yes, her skirt really sold for $20,000!
Now, to the lovely Tina Louise who played the movie star, Ginger Grant. Actually, she did such a marvelous job as Ginger that no one could see Tina Louise as anything else. It’s true. Everyone celebrated her role as Ginger so much, she wasn’t able to get another role. Years later, the actress blamed the show for ruining her TV career.
All 99 Episodes
As fans recall Gilligan’s Island, they’ll fondly remember the entertaining plot and relatable cast. Actually, each actor and actress was so committed that most of the main cast appeared in every single episode. Actually, Skipper, Gilligan and the Howells were in every one of the 99 episodes! The Professor, Mary Ann and Ginger are credited for 98 episodes, which is not too shabby. Talk about commitment!
Everyone’s Least Favorite Thing
What is everyone’s least favorite thing about driving? Traffic, without a doubt. Those California natives know about the notorious traffic in Los Angeles. Obviously, that heavy traffic is quite noisy. In order to avoid capturing the traffic sounds from the highway, the crew had to shoot lagoon scene on their L.A. lot as fast as possible. Thus, they could try to avoid the traffic noise interruptions.
Now, how is this for motivation? Apparently, the pilot was shot in Hawaii. Thus, actress Natalie Schafer decided to film the Gilligan’s Island pilot in order to get that free trip. Unfortunately, once CBS picked up the show, the cast got the news that they would actually be shooting in Los Angeles. Wow, what a bummer!
Sadly, actress Dawn Wells couldn’t sing at all! Therefore, when Mary Ann needed to sing with the entire cast, Wells improvised. Instead of Wells singing as Mary Ann, her character used lip sync to ensure the singing sequences would still sound pleasant. Some simply thought she could have attended singing lessons, but this seemed to work out just fine.
Everything But That
Alright, so fans really were not buying the whole thing with the Professor. Come on, that man was super handy and could make things with any random object on the island. So, how is it, he could not fix that boat? Well, there was a general understanding that if he did fix it, Gilligan’s Island would have to end. Okay, fine, makes sense.
Choice For Gilligan
A rumor that seemed to spread like wildfire was that the producer wanted Alan Young to play Gilligan. Actor Alan Young is most famous for playing Wilbur Post on the show Mister Ed. Years later, Sherwood Schwartz cleared up any confusion. Schwartz insisted he had no clue where that came from since he never considered Alan Young at all.
No Need For Kids
At first, they thought of using a child actor to play the Professor’s nephew. However, they decided against this because of one element of the show. Apparently, they sculpted Gilligan to be childlike at heart, so Gilligan’s Island did not need a child actor.
Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but all three actresses from Gilligan’s Island were married for less than ten years. Maybe if was the intensive shooting schedule that transferred over to personal lives. Perhaps, all the obsessed male fans were constantly waiting to marry these lovely ladies! Whatever the reason, they got to enjoy such success with Gilligan’s Island, that’s what they should be remembered for best.
A True Hero
So, the character Gilligan was always goofing off. Many were confused as to why this character who was always messing around was kept around by the Skipper. Obviously, Gilligan got really annoying at times. However, the backstory explains why. Apparently, during WWII, the two served in the Navy together. Gilligan saved Skipper’s life in the Navy from a depth charge, which would have surely killed him. Thus, Skipper owed his life to the lovable goofball.
Money On And Off-Set
Next up, we have to talk about Natalie Schafer who played millionaire Mrs. Howell. Maybe you didn’t know, but the actress was also a millionaire in real life! From buying Rodeo Drive properties up at a time when they cost about as much as a cheap car and then flipping them once prices skyrocketed, Natalie Schafer made out as well as her character!
Despite only having three seasons, Gilligan’s Island grew to be famous all across the world. Actually, Dawn Wells had an interesting experience while visiting the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Wells came to a small island tribe who lived without luxuries of modern technology. So, they didn’t even have electricity in the fishing village. Anyhow, Wells got introduced to the chief and he was overwhelmed and ecstatic. The chief actually recognized her from Gilligan’s Island! Unbelievable!
Sure, we all know the sitcom, Alf. However, did you remember when Alf the alien had a dream about getting trapped on Gilligan’s Island? The alien was on the island with the entire cast. Such a classic crossover episode. Seriously, the whole Gilligan’s Island was on the special from Alan Hale Jr, Dawn Wells, Russell Johnson to Bob Denver. It was incredible!
As a former military man, Alan Hale Jr. was known for being a tough guy. There was one stand out incident that crew members would never forget. Apparently, one episode called for him to climb up a tree. While they were shooting, he fell but missed the soft landing pad. Thus, he fell onto the concrete! Ouch, that must have hurt! Well, he did break his arm, but he didn’t even tell people until weeks after. When the crew asked how he managed it, Alan responded, “it wasn’t easy.”
Dramatically Different Pilot
The initial pilot was drastically different from what fans know as Gilligan’s Island today. First of all, they had totally different characters. As far as the actresses go, they played a high school teacher and secretaries. So, the network realized that with all the dramatic differences, the pilot would really confuse fans. Thus, they only re-broadcasted it years after when they believed audiences could cope with the differences. That wasn’t until 1992!
One way that shows stayed relevant back in the 60’s or 70’s was to adapt their shows into cartoons and even cartoon spinoffs. Maybe you remember Gilligan’s Island jumped on the bandwagon too. The show made two cartoons, one being the classic Gilligan’s Island and the other in outer space called Gilligan’s Planet.
So Many Gingers
Of course, we all only know Gilligan’s Island‘s Ginger as the actress Tina Louise. However, you did not realize her famous role was reprised by six other people. That’s if you’re counting not only the show, but animated series and TV movies. Interestingly enough, her costar Dawn Wells voiced both Mary Ann and Ginger for the cartoon, Gilligan’s Planet.
Pushing For The Show
Sherwood Schwartz was a huge name in the industry. So, when he went to talk with Jim Aubrey, the CBS president at the time, to pitch Gilligan’s Island, he was able to push Aubrey despite the hesitation. Aubrey was nervous that if they aired Gilligan’s Island, audiences would become tired and frustrated that the characters could never escape the island. Luckily, thanks to Schwartz’s persistence, Aubrey went with it anyway.
This one may surprise fans with preconceived notions about Natalie Schafer. Although she was a millionaire, this actress performed all of her own stunts! Also, it’s important to note she was about 65 years old at the time of the show. Considering her age, it makes it all the more impressive. Think about it, Schafer had to fall and sink in quicksand. She even fell into the lagoon as well!
Although fans still celebrate the entire cast, Dawn Wells was the one to make out best in terms of money. Since Wells was married to a television show agent, he gave her crucial advice. He told her to add a clause in her contract that really saved her. Within the fine print, Wells had been advised to add in that she would get royalties from Gilligan’s Island syndications. So, even today as daytime TV plays reruns, Dawn Wells still receives checks from Gilligan’s Island time to time. Amazing!
Original Mary Ann
Now, we all cannot stop raving about Dawn Wells as Mary Ann. However, she was not the initial pick for the celebrated role. Actually, if you remember the 1960’s sensation, Raquel Welch…yeah, that’s who they wanted for Mary Ann. Apparently, Raquel Welch thinks she saved her future career by not accepting the role on Gilligan’s Island. Turns out, most of the cast really were not able to land big parts once they became associated with their famous characters.
Maybe you didn’t catch this but Jim Backus played Thurston Howell III on the show, but that character was a small nod to another one he played. Gilligan’s Island producer, Sherwood Schwartz also had the show The Alan Young Show on which Jim Backus was playing Hubert Updyke III. So when Shwartz was pitching Gilligan’s Island, he said, “the island would be a social microcosm and a metaphorical shaming of world politics in the sense that when necessary for survival, yes we can all get along.”
More on actor Jim Backus. Truth is, he couldn’t be more different than his on-screen character, big spending, millionaire Howell. In real life, he was the total opposite. All those that worked with him knew his notorious frugal ways. Lots of stories circulated about meal breaks. Apparently, most times Backus often ‘forgot’ his wallet. Thus, forcing his costars to foot the bill for him. Actually, his did this so frequently the whole Gilligan’s Island crew teased him about the awful habit.
Next up, we’re going to give you a bit more on what Tina Louise was really like on the set. So, while filming she often had the entire crew and cast make exceptions for her. Louise was not exactly prepared for the reality of her role on Gilligan’s Island. Before accepting the role, her agent represented it to her as a film star stuck on an island. Thus, she wrongly assumed that the whole show would revolve around her character’s exploits.
Each one of the Gilligan’s Island characters, well except the goofy Gilligan, stood for a specific segment in American society. That’s the reason they would refer to each by their job titles and not always by their real names. Thus, it became easier to see how each character represented that entire segment of American society.
Dawn Wells’ Memoir
Since the world knows actress Dawn Wells as Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island, she decided to capitalize on that fame for her memoir. Therefore, her memoir was titled, What Would Mary Ann Do? for her character. In fact, she wrote it from her character’s perspective. Yes, that’s right it gives advice based on Mary Ann’s star-eyed Kansas native point of view about troubles in modern society. Besides self-help section, you can get the scoop on many of Wells’ on-set experiences.
While the famous Dawn Wells drove home from the mayor’s birthday celebration in Driggs, Idaho in 2007, she got into some trouble. Apparently, she was serving a bit so a sheriff’s deputy pulled the actress over. While searching her car he found three smoked cigarettes with controlled substances. Thus, Wells was locked up. Even though one of her friends came forward to claim the joints were left by him/her earlier, the star’s reputation was already tarnished. Hopefully, fans did not hold it against her for long.
Wrong About Reruns
One huge reason generations today even know the show is that the Gilligan’s Island reruns have kept the show alive well past its time. We’ve enjoyed Gilligan’s Island for over 50 years thanks to these broadcasted reruns. When Gilligan’s Island first aired, even the producers never imagined that the show would have reruns on the air. Clearly, they could not have been more wrong!
Dawn Wells actually got crowned as Miss Nevada back in 1959. Her win helped her earn a scholarship at the University of Washington, where she went on to study theater. Once she finished her degree, she moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue acting. Despite her dreams of acting, she did not want to end up another beautiful face in the big city. Thus, she remained focused and continued to work hard to reach fame.
Ah the eternal debate of Mary Ann or Ginger! Everyone had an opinion. In real life, Tina Louise and Dawn Wells became close friends. At first, Wells was a bit intimidated because Tina Louise was a huge star. This was before many people knew Dawn Wells. However, once Dawn Wells got past her nerves, her friendship with her costar blossomed. Dawn Wells is even friends on social media with Louise’s daughter. So sweet!
Tina The Teacher
Now, our star Tina Louise is a Broadway actress. Yes, she made the movie to the Big Apple, NYC. However, when she’s not starring on Broadway, she volunteers as a teacher in the New York Public schools. Surprisingly, as a second grade teacher, a lot of her students recognize her as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island! Just goes to show you have much the reruns have helped the show to stay relevant.
From all the many episodes of Gilligan’s Island, Tina Louise said filming “All About Eva” was her absolute favorite. To refresh your memory, that was when another red head named Eva washes up on the island. Initially, Eva was a bit of a mess, but Ginger helped her freshen up with a complete makeover. In an odd turn of events, Eva escapes and takes on Ginger’s identity once she returns to Hollywood. Naturally, Tina Louise played by characters and truly loved shooting the episode.
Sunday By Tina Louise
It’s not just Dawn Wells with a personal memoir. You guessed it, Tina Louise also wrote one titled Sunday. Actually, it’s not so much of a fluid memoir, but rather, a collection of memoirs. Her aim was to aid teenagers and young girls that maybe are not in school or even had kids very young. Within the books, the star also shares her own experience of being sent to boarding school between the ages of 6 and 8.
Not A Dime
Hard to believe we know but most of the cast from Gilligan’s Island did not become rich from the show. Not even Gilligan himself, well, we mean Bob Denver, but anyway. The majority of the Gilligan’s Island cast only retained residual rights until 1968. That’s because they never predicted this show would become so huge. Mostly, the cast thought it was a fun project to add their resume. Everyone but Dawn Wells who as we mentioned, had a special clause in her contract to retain all rights.
Tina Didn’t Hang
Who wouldn’t want to hang out with the entire Gilligan’s Island cast? Apparently, Tina Louise didn’t want to. Also Louise avoided group interviews. Many suspected this was because the star hoped not to be typecast as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. It’s true, once the actors left the show, most TV and film producers were nervous audiences would only see them as Gilligan’s Island characters.
Fans loved to talk about a potential relationship between Mary Ann and the Professor. Millions eagerly watched Gilligan’s Island waiting for the moment the romance would be sparked. Yet, producer Sherwood Schwartz was carefully avoiding such a love interest as to keep his show as family friendly as possible. Schwartz would not allow any romances so as to not push the envelope.
Everyone has been wanting to know the true reason for this incredible show’s cancellation! Well, it all goes back to when CBS was actively working on their lineup for the year and decided to cut Gilligan’s Island. You have to remember that the show did not have the best ratings at the time. So, CBS considered switching Gilligan’s Island to a less expensive time slot, but then decided to cancel Gilligan’s Island once they picked up Gunsmoke.
In Memory Of
Do you remember in January 2016 when the legendary musician David Bowie passed away? Well, around that time, a curious hashtag also was trending. For some strange reason, #RipBobDenver also became a popular topic. Fans worldwide paid tribute to the star of Gilligan’s Island. Even though this was touching, it was very weird because Denver died about 10 years before this time. Despite this, people continued to pay respect.
What’s Up Doc?
During the episode, “You Have Been Disconnected,” there was a small reference you may not have picked up on. We see Mr. Howell passing his wife’s precious diamond necklace to Gilligan for the purpose of cutting encased wires. When he hands it off to Gilligan, he says, “You’ll have more carrots than Bugs Bunny.” The reason this reference was so spot on was because Jim Backus previously voiced the Looney Tunes character Smokey the Genie alongside Bugs Bunny in “A-La-In His Lamp.”
Archie Bunker As The Skipper?
Carroll O’Connor became famous for All in the Family‘s racist bigot, Archie Bunker. What fans never knew was that O’Connor auditioned for the role of the Skipper. However, Schwartz could not see the actor as the Skipper, so he turned him down. Hey, in retrospect we have to agree.
One of the key elements of the show was the dream sequences. While we do have more to say about them later, we need to take you back to one particular moment. Who remembers the dream sequence from “‘V’ for Vitamins?” Turns out, Bob Denver’s very own son, Patrick, voiced for small Gilligan! Hey, that’s not a bad gig for his son. Sounds fun!
A Life Changing Dinner
So how did the Skipper we came to love actually get the role? Actor Alan Hale Jr. was at dinner dressed in a Civil War uniform. In that same Hollywood restaurant was creator Sherwood Schwartz who spotted the star in his costume. Pleased with what he saw, Schwartz decided then and there he wanted Alan as the Skipper.
What Could Have Been
Although there were only 3 seasons and 3 films of Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz had some big ideas for a fourth film. He thought the plot could work around an idea of nuclear war. Well, the castaways would believe they were the last humans remaining. So, Mary Ann would marry Gilligan, while Ginger and the Professor would marry each other. Both sets would have children. When Gilligan and Mary Ann’s son turned 20 years old, he would sail into the world and discover it wasn’t destroyed. All the characters listened on the radio, but just before the disclaimer came on Gilligan broke the radio.
Back to the dream sequences! Not only did fans love them, but even the actors themselves really enjoyed these memorable dream sequences. You have to remember, those scenes meant they could finally leave the island and film anywhere, so to speak.
Requests For Rescue
Now, this one is a bit bizarre. Apparently, when Gilligan’s Island aired, the Coast Guard began receiving letters from people asking for help to rescue these castaways. Surprisingly, these viewers never realized it was only a show. When Schwartz interviewed with the Archive of American Television, he called those watchers delusional and asked, “Now who did they think was laughing at what was happening to these people? Where did they think the music came from, and the commercials?”