You probably already know the schtick. It only ever supposed to be a three-hour tour. But what started out as a leisurely trek out to see turned into an extended stay on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere.
Gilligan’s Island had a relatively short initial run. And you might surprised to learn that it only managed to renewed for three seasons. It’s a wonder that we even still remember such a campy, saccharine, not to mention ridiculously contrived series such as it was in the first place. You can thank reruns for that. Gilligan and his friends have been mainstays of syndicated ‘classic’ television for more than half a century now.
Almost anyone can name off the cast members. And I’m willing to bet that just the mention of the show’s title had you humming that infectious theme song. The series successfully birthed an entire franchise, including three made-for-TV movies, two cartoons, and mountains of memorabilia and collectibles. So to put it simply, it’s quite certainly one of the most beloved television shows of all time. Join Facts Verse to learn more the sad details about the Gilligan’s Island Cast.
But like any show, what you see on-screen didn’t fully represent all of the drama, infighting, controversy. And general uneasiness felt and experienced by the cast and crew behind the scenes. Most of the stars had their own trove of unsettling backstories. And some found themselves in particularly unflattering situations after the show went off the air. The merry band of castaways even faced trouble surrounding their paychecks, polarizing world events, and even struggled with paying their own medical bills. So without further ado, I present to you some of the most tragic – and unexpected – details about one of the most iconic shows in television history.
Alan Hale Hitchhiked To His Audition
The actor who played the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island went by Alan Hale Jr. before later dropping the Jr. for simplicity’s sake. His dad, Alan Sr, was one of the more celebrated character actors making the rounds in Tinseltown for decades. This left some pretty big shoes for his son to fill when it came time for him to try his luck out as an actor. He was only ever able to escape his father’s shadow after landing his career-defining role on Gilligan’s Island. And he nearly missed that opportunity as well. But instead of succumbing to the bad luck that the universe dealt him. He decided to take matters into his own hands. Hale determined to land the role even if it meant taking a few risks along the way.
When Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of the series, was looking to cast an actor to play the Skipper. He kept running into brick walls. Everyone that auditioned for the part didn’t seem to fit his vision. But one day while he was enjoying lunch at a local restaurant he saw Hale and knew immediately that he had found his guy. The following day he gave the orders to his casting director to find Hale and deliver him to the studio. But as luck would have it, Hale had flown off to Utah to shoot “Bullet For a Badman”.
When Hale received word that Schwartz had summoned him for an audition he discovered that it wasn’t so easy to leave St. George, Utah on such short notice. There were no flights out of there and not a rental car in sight. So without hesitation, he made his way out the highway, stuck out his thumb. And hitchhiked to Las Vegas where he caught a flight to Las Angeles. Lo and behold, he made it to the audition just in the nick of time and scored the role.
Hey, not to get too side-tracked, but if you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to give it a like and subscribe if you haven’t already. Join Facts Verse to learn more the sad details about the Gilligan’s Island Cast.
And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stay Tuned to find out my actress Dawn Wells had to start a GoFundMe just to pay for her medical bills. You would think that she would have had plenty of cash to cover those kinds of expenses. But as it turns out most of the Gilligan’s Island cast members made very little money off that show. It is despite the fact that it’s been in syndication for almost half a century now.
Russell Johnson Went To A School For Orphaned Children
Most folks know Johnson for playing the Professor; the level-headed, voice of reason on Gilligan’s Island. But before he found fame and fortune on TV, he endured a pretty difficult childhood.
Johnson, the eldest child of seven from a very impoverished family in Ashley, Pennsylvania. When he was 8 years old, his father passed away leaving behind a mountain of debt for his family to deal with. His widowed mother had very little support and couldn’t raise her brood on her own. So she shipped Johnson and one of his brothers over to Girard College, a boarding school for poor orphan children in Philadelphia. And that’s where he spent the bulk of his younger years, living on the campus from the age of 9 to 18.
Russell Johnson Also Wounded During WWII
After leaving the boarding school, Johnson decided that joining the US Army might improve his chances of having a future worth living. During his time in the service, he served as a bombardier during the Second World War. Flying countless missions over the Pacific Theater. It was during this chapter of his life that the soon-to-be Professor became a real-life castaway. But not in the comical way depicted in Gilligan’s Island.
While flying a bombing mission over the Philippines, Russell’s B-25 Bomber shot down out of the sky forcing him to make a crash landing near the island of Mindanao. Johnson ended up breaking both of his ankles in the crash. And later awarded the Purple Heart for his courageous heroism. Several of his fellow pilots died that day, but Johnson walked away with more than just a story to tell.
The Castaways Not Surprisingly Typecast For Life
Most actors would likely say that they desire to recognized for a role. But that sometimes comes with its own set of limitations. The danger of being typecast can end an up-and-coming actor’s career. If a particular performance becomes a little too iconic, it can take sometimes decades for an actor to cast off the association. And more times than not, they never do. Such was the case for the cast of Gilligan’s Island.
Take Russell Johnson for example. Before joining the Gilligan’s Island cast he often played slick-witted villains but after starring as the straight-laced, studious Professor audiences weren’t about to accept him as a baddie once again. He told CNN in 1993 that after Gilligan’s Island he struggled for many years to land another job.
Dawn Wells had a similar experience as her co-star. She told the Washington Post that she spent much of her career after Gilligan seeking – mostly unsuccessfully – to find challenging roles on the stage and screen. When she attempted to participate in a production of The Vagina Monologues even years later, producers squashed her ambitions and shut the production down because they still thought of her as Mary Ann.
It’s been long rumored that Tina Louise, the actress who played Ginger, resented ever doing the show mostly because she never able to stage a return to the movies. However, in 2020 she told the New York Post that she loved playing that role. Especially after they started developing her character. She did admit though that she once contemplated quitting.
The Actors Earned No Residuals
Most people might assume that the Gilligan Cast lived pretty comfortable lives off of the residuals that they made from doing the iconic series. Especially considering the fact that the show has been in continuous syndication since its cancellation. This assumption, although reasonable, is unfortunately not true. During that period in television history, residuals weren’t typically a thing that was written in actors’ contracts indefinitely. They were normally restricted to reruns of just the first few episodes of a series. Because of that fact, none of the cast members got rich off doing the show.
Dawn Wells told Forbes a while back that she paid only $750 a week. But she did however acknowledge that some of the other actors involved in the show like Jim Backus and Tina Louise banked quite a bit more. Russell Johnson resented left out of the syndication profits. Louise second that sentiment by confirming that she never received a check for residuals.
Most accounts seem to indicate that the only individual that made any cash off syndication was the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz. Wells told Forbes that Schwartz made $90 million on the show’s reruns. But Schwartz daughter, Hope Juber, denied this allegation calling it ‘ridiculous and surprising’.
Dawn Wells Needed To Make GoFundMe
Missing out on all of those tasty Gilligan’s Island residuals was particularly damaging to the actors involved in the long term. While most modern sitcom actors will bank millions in syndication throughout the remainder of their lives after doing a series. The Gilligan’s Island cast got the majority of their earnings from their later acting gigs and nostalgic television appearances.
Acting can be a pretty unreliable source of income especially for actors who find themselves typecast. Of the entire cast, Dawn Wells felt this unfortunate truth the hardest. When she sustained an injury, she found herself forced to rely upon crowdfunding to get the healthcare and assistance that she desperately needed.
Wells started a GoFundMe in the fall of 2018 after heeding the advice of her close friend, Dough Kirkpatrick. Apparently, the financial crisis of 2008 left Dawn in a deep hole where she lost everything including her life savings. When she had to have life-threatening surgery that almost killed her, she couldn’t even pay her medical bills.
When she injured her knee in 2018, she was left with a towering pile of debt that denied her the opportunity to move into a specialty assisted living nursing home. Her GoFundMe goal was set to $180,000 to help her pay her medical expenses and deal with her mounting troubles with the IRS. She ended up reaching her goal and was able to move into the facility. Granted, asking strangers for money was a tremendous blow to her pride and ego. But she was still beyond flattered and grateful that her fans and friends came to her rescue.
The Draft Almost Dealt A Deathblow To Bob Denver’s Career
Years before he sported his iconic bucket hat, Bob Denver portrayed beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He actually played that character for far more episodes than he did as Gilligan. But Dobie Gillis never reached the level of lasting popularity that Gilligan’s Island enjoyed.
Just four sidesteps into production, Denver received a summons from the US Army informing him that he had been drafted. The writers of Dobie Gillis actually wrote that into the show with Maynard getting also getting drafted and delivering a heartfelt good-bye. Michael J. Pollard ended up filling his role with the character Jerome Krebs who was supposed to be Maynard’s beatnik cousin.
Fortunately for Denver, an old neck injury led the army to classify the actor as 4F which is shorthand for ‘unfit for service’. Denver then returned to set, thrilled beyond belief that he dodged that bullet only to discover that everyone thought that he was pulling their leg. It took literally hours before the show’s creator Max Shulman realized that Denver wasn’t joking. But he told him to go home and wait for a callback since Michael Pollard had already signed his contract.
Denver did, however, get his role back and Pollard got paid for 30 episodes despite the fact that he only appeared in two.
Well, that’s about all the time we’ve got for this video today. But hopefully, you’ve enjoyed going on this little journey down Hollywood memory lane with us.
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