Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island is a comedy series starring Bob Denver as ‘Gilligan’, Alan Hale, Jr. as Jonas ‘The Skipper’ Grumby, Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer as Mrs. ‘Lovey’ Howell, Tina Louise as ‘Ginger’ Grant, Russell Johnson as ‘Professor’ Roy Hinkley, and Dawn Wells as ‘Mary Ann’ Summers. The Gilligan’s Island series was created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz and originally produced by United Artists Television. It aired for three seasons on the CBS network from September 26, 1964, to September 4, 1967. Originally sponsored by Philip Morris & Company and Procter & Gamble, the show followed the comic adventures of seven castaways as they attempted to survive and ultimately escape from the island on which they had been shipwrecked, their escape plans inevitably failing for various reasons.

Cast of Gilligan’s Island: Tina Louise as Ginger Grant, Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer as Mrs. Lovely Howell, Alan Hale Jr. as Jonas The Skipper Grumby, Bob Denver as Gilligan, Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers, Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley

Gilligan’s Island ran for a total of 98 episodes. The first season, consisting of 36 episodes, was filmed in black and white. These episodes were later colorized for syndication. The show’s second and third seasons (62 episodes) and the three television movie sequels were filmed in color.

Ginger (Tina Louise), Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), Mrs. Lovely Howell (Natalie Schafer) in “Gilligan’s Island”

Gilligan’s Island was critically panned during its entire three-season-run. Critics called the show “a silly tale of seven bizarre characters.” Despite the criticism, however, the series was rather popular with audiences. As a result, Gilligan’s Island was a great success in the ratings. The show shocked CBS and the critics that panned it during its first year on the air, by ending in the top 20 programs. Gilligan’s Island grew even more popular during decades of syndication, especially in the 1970s and ’80s when many markets ran the show in the late afternoon after school. Today, the title character of Gilligan is widely recognized as an American cultural icon.

Gilligan (Bob Denver), The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.), and The Professor (Russell Johnson) in “Gilligan’s Island”

Trivia

The island shown in the opening and closing credits is actually located in Kaneohe Bay, about a mile offshore from the island of Oahu, in Hawaii.

Filming of the show took place at the CBS Radford Studios complex in Studio City, Los Angeles California. The same stage was later used by The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Roseanne. The lagoon was drained and used as a parking lot during the show’s off-season and was the last surviving element of the show when it was demolished in 1997 as part of an expansion project.

The show was originally slated to return for the 1967-68 television season but canceled at the last minute by CBS head William Paley, to make room for the long-running Gunsmoke.

Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) and Mrs. Lovely Howell (Natalie Schafer) in “Gilligan’s Island”

In the very first shot of the opening credits, the American flag over the harbor can be seen flying at half-mast. The reason? The assassination of President John F. Kennedy had just occured, shortly before the shot was filmed.

The United States Coast Guard occasionally received telegrams from concerned citizens, who apparently did not realize it was a scripted show, pleading for them to rescue Gilligan and the other survivors. They would forward these telegrams on to producer Sherwood Schwartz.

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and Gilligan (Bob Denver) in “Gilligan’s Island”

Jayne Mansfield turned down the role of Ginger and Raquel Welch auditioned for the role of Mary Ann.

The music and lyrics for the theme song, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle”, were written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle. One version was used for the first season and another for the second and third. In the original song, the Professor and Mary Ann were referred to as “and the rest”. Actors Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells were originally considered “second-billed co-stars”, but with the growing popularity of their characters, their names were inserted into the lyrics. Wells has said that star Bob Denver went to the studio executives to get Johnson and herself added to the opening credits. The studio originally refused, stating it would be too costly to re-shoot and re-score the opening. Denver pointed out that his contract stated he could have his name anywhere he wanted in the credits, so they could move it to the end credits along with Johnson and Wells. The studio capitulated. Wells said that Denver never mentioned this to anyone in the cast, and she did not find out about it until years after the show ended.

Mrs. Lovely Howell (Natalie Schafer) and Ginger (Tina Louise) in “Gilligan’s Island”

It has long been stated that the entire cast of Gilligan’s Island never received residuals beyond the first four reruns of each episode. This was true for the entire cast except Dawn Wells. When the show was picked up by CBS and Dawn was cast to replace Nancy McCarthy, she was married to her agent at the time. In her original contract she was to be paid $1200 per week plus the residual contract the six other castaways received. Her husband/agent said that should the show become successful Dawn would not benefit from receiving such a limited residual option. Believing the show would flop, the CBS executives humored Dawn and her husband and put a clause in her contract giving her long-term residuals should the show ever syndicate. As a result from that clause Dawn has made literally millions of dollars as the years have gone by from syndication of Gilligan’s Island. This was never public knowledge. Dawn and series creator Sherwood Schwartz are the only individuals to profit long-term from the series.

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) in “Gilligan’s Island”

The ship’s name, S. S. Minnow, was not named for the fish but rather for Newton Minow, head of the FCC in 1961. Minow was the one who called television “America’s vast wasteland”. Sherwood Schwartz did not care for Minow so he named the soon-to-be shipwrecked ship after him, though he later said that Minow actually enjoyed the joke and that the two eventually exchanged regular friendly correspondence.

Gilligan (Bob Denver) and Mary Ann (Dawn Welles) in “Gilligan’s Island”

Four vessels were used as the SS Minnow. One was towed to Kauai, Hawaii for beach scenes, one was rented in Honolulu for the original opening credits, and one was built at CBS Studios in the second season. The fourth one was used in the second season opening credits. A subsequent owner was sailing it south from Alaska when it ran aground on a reef off the coast of British Columbia.

Ginger or Mary Ann?

By most accounts, the wholesome down-to-earth Mary Ann, has outpolled Ginger by a sizable vote. Bob Denver (Gilligan), agreed Mary Ann was prettier, and that when producers did polls, Mary Ann, always beat Ginger 4 to 1. Surprisingly, Mrs. Howell, has often been brought into the equation, and she herself has been known to beat Ginger, and occasionally Mary Ann. But, on the basis of the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” question, Mary Ann, has always outpolled Ginger.

This question has endured long after the series had ended!! So, what do you think? Ginger or Mary Ann?

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3 Responses to Gilligan’s Island

  1. Thatsswell says:

    mS,

    Can you blame Tina Louise for not wanting to be in a later “Gilligan’s Island” movie? Not only did all the viewer polls reveal that people thought Mary Ann was prettier but some even thought Mrs. Howell was prettier than Ginger and she was an old woman. I’m thinking she was gone for good once her contract was up. LOL

  2. Joe says:

    Mrs Howell’s name was not “Lovely” … Mr Howell and the rest of the castaways called her “Lovey” but that was just a nickname. In one episode, a radio broadcast states that her name is Eunice.

  3. mS says:

    that first photo shown is from a later Gilligan’s Island movie and that is not Tina Louise in the photo, it is one of her replacements. She refused to appear in the later films.

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