Gilligan’s Island was the American sitcom, that won viewers’ hearts, from the second it aired, in 1964 to 1967. It had three television movies to follow. Yet there are many interesting facts about the show we bet you didn’t know.
Do You Know Gilligan’s First Name?
Gilligan never had a first name did you ever notice? During the show he was always called Gilligan and there was never mention of his first name. After the show ended, Sherwood Schwartz told the world that Gilligan’s first name was Willie.
While the world was discussing who they preferred over Ginger or Mary Ann, real life Dawn and Tina Louise (who played Ginger on the show) were actually quite close friends. But before that, Dawn was actually star struck by her. At the time, Tina was a huge movie star while Dawn was still relatively unknown. But soon, Dawn’s shyness around Tina turned into true friendship.
Tina Louise The Teacher
Tina Louise lives in New York now and is still in the spotlight when she performs in Broadway musicals. But when she is not acting, she is a volunteer teacher in the New York Public School System teaching second graders. She walked in and nearly every single student recognized her as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island due to reruns of the show being played so much. It is great how the show has still moved through the times and is still popular.
All About Eva
One of Tina Louise’s favorite episodes to film was an episode titled “All About Eva.” The premise of the episode was that a young red headed woman washes up on the island. She looks absolutely terrible, so Ginger helps the woman known as Eva and gives her a complete makeover. At the end, Eva leaves the island and pretends she is Ginger back in Hollywood. Louise loved filming the episode because she played both women. Could this be the idea for the premise of parent trap?
Dawn Wells Memoir
Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann, wrote a book called What Would Mary Ann Do? The book is part memoir and part self help book, along with having a wealth of stories about what it was like while the series was being filmed. The book is written from the perspective of Mary Ann herself, and includes all sorts of advice from a star eyed girl from 1950s Kansas on the trials and tribulations of modern society.
The Skipper’s Name
In the show, the viewers knew the Skipper as the Skipper, and it seems as though we never hear his real name, yet if you listen closely, the Skipper actually does say his name during the very first episode that aired in 1964. His full name was Jonas Grumby. When Alan died, his ashes were scattered at sea. “It’s what ‘The Skipper’ would have wanted”.
The Skipper, played by Alan Hale Jr. had a constant habit of calling people on set ‘little buddy’. It was then written into the script and the Skipper would call Bob Denver’s character, Gilligan, ‘little buddy’.
Drama ensued on set, as Bob Denver didn’t like that his co-stars Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson were listed in the credits as ‘the rest’ rather than named. He demanded in fact that they be named in the credits. Another interesting unknown fact revealed, is that Jerry Van Dyke was actually first offered the role of Gilligan and turned it down, “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.”
Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of the show, hated Newton Minow, who, at the time, was the head of the Federal Communications Commission. For his own amusement and private joke, Schwartz named the shipwrecked ship the S.S Minnow. We wonder if he ever caught on. This is a very good joke on Schwartz’s behalf.
Dawn Wells and Tina Louise are the only stars still around sadly most of the others have died. These two are both well into their 70s and 80s. We sincerely hope they are alive for a long while to keep the memory of the incredible show alive for as long as possible. This picture shows the stars when they were alive, they aged well we must say.
The Big Secret
One of the biggest secrets that was kept during the whole show is one you want to know. So it transpired that Natalie Schafer who played Mrs. Lovey Howell’s wife, never told anyone her real age. The cast members, had no idea, the crew members knew nothing and not even the producers knew her real age. Eventually the “truth came out” and the discovery was as promised very juicy. Schafer was 13 years older than her on TV husband played by Jim Backus.
It’s In The Contract
Schafer made it so clear that she wanted her age to be kept a secret, she had it written clearly in the contract that there were to be no close-ups of her and no one would be able to guess the 13-year-old age gap between her and her husband. Quite the effort was made to keep that secret.
Alan Hale Jr.’s road to his audition for the show was a crazy one to say the least. First, he had to get on a horse from his other set in Utah. He then hitchhiked all the way to Las Vegas, and from there he caught a flight to Los Angeles to audition for the role of Bob Denver. Good thing that he managed to impress after all that.
The $20K Skirt
Oh Mary Ann. Everyone at the time of the show airing had a mad crush on the beautiful actress. Men were in love with her, women wanted to be her. But there was much more than her looks and personality that made he unforgettable. It turns out that one of the skirts Mary Ann was wearing during the show, was sold later for… $20,000!
Ruining Her Career
Tina Louise who played the gorgeous bombshell Ginger Grant, was one of the most memorable characters in the show. In fact, after the show ended, Louise found it near impossible to land herself a new role, because she was too associated with Ginger’s character. Louise later blamed the show for ruining her TV career.
99 Episodes Baby
The cast of the show was so committed to their work, that each and every one of the main characters appeared in every episode of the 99 episodes of the show (with an exception of maybe one or two episodes that did not include the whole bunch).
Natalie Schafer admitted that one of the reasons she filmed the pilot episode of the show, was specifically to get a free vacation to Hawaii, where the show’s pilot was filmed. Later, when the show was picked up by CBS, she was extremely upset to learn that she would have to move to Los Angeles and not the exotic destination for the actual filming.
Marry Ann who was played by Dawn Wells, was known for having an unbearable singing voice. So when the script stated that they all had to sing, she was made to mouth along with everyone in order not to ruin the singing sequences. The producers even hinted that she should have gotten singing lessons, but that did not go down well.
Everyone thought at the time that Alan Young was the favorite actor of the producers to play the role of Gilligan on the show. Many years later however, Sherwood stated that he had no idea who got that idea since he was never even thought of for the role. Chinese whispers always turn out wrong.
In the beginning before the show aired, the producers had an idea to put a child in the show who would act as The Professor’s nephew. The idea didn’t end up coming to life however due to the fact that Gilligan was such a kid at heart, they didn’t really need one.
Did you know that all three leading ladies of the show were each married for less than ten years. Maybe it was the show’s shooting schedule that did it? Or could have been all the adoring male fans who were lining up for marriage one after the other. Being an actress must have been very difficult on their personal lives.
Money Coming Out Of Your Ears
The actress who played Mrs. Howell, the wife of the millionaire Thurston Howell III, was it turns out, actually a real life millionaire off the set as well. She made her money by buying up dozens of properties on Rodeo Drive back when the houses there cost nothing. Clever investment.
Fans Couldn’t Get Enough
Even though the show was only on air for four seasons, its popularity spread worldwide. The cast tell the story that one day, as Dawn Wells was traveling in the South Pacific, she happened upon a tiny island inhabited by a tribe with no electricity, cars, or any modern technology whatsoever. But when she was introduced to the chief of this small fishing village, the chief’s eye’s lit up because he recognized her from Gilligan’s Island.
Tough guy Alan Hale
Alan Hale was renowned for being a tough guy. He was in the military and when it came to antics on set, nothing seemed to phase him. In fact, while he was filming an episode involving climbing up a tree, he fell and missed the soft landing spot the crew had set up, and landed on the concrete set floor. He broke his arm, but did not tell anyone about it for weeks.
The pilot of the show was actually very different to how the show itself turned out. There were even different characters. The networks believed that the pilot would have confused people so much that it was not re-broadcast until 1992, when they thought people could handle the change.
Gilligan’s Island was so popular that it even became a cartoon, like many other popular shows. The show actually became two different cartoons. One was Gilligan’s Island, but just in cartoon form, while the other one was Gilligan’s Planet, which was the same exact premise as Gilligan’s Island, but just set in outer space.
The Many Gingers
The role of Ginger has been played by six different people, even though mostly it was played by Tina Louise. This of course is taking into account the television show, the TV movies, and of course, the animated series. What is really interesting, is that in one of the Gilligan’s Island cartoons, Gilligan’s Planet, Dawn Wells voice acted for both Mary Ann as well as Ginger. She just couldn’t get enough of the role.
The Fight For The Show
Sherwood Schwartz was the producer for Gilligan’s Island. When Schwartz went to CBS to speak with the president of the station Jim Aubrey to pitch the show, Aubrey was not excited about the idea and didn’t know if it could work. Jim Aubrey’s main concern for this idea was that audiences would end up getting bored due to the fact that Gilligan and the rest of the castaways never got off the island.
Natalie Schafer: Stunt Woman
Despite being a millionaire both in real life and on the show Gilligan’s Island, Natalie Schafer actually did all of her own stunts. Wow that is incredible. Even at 65 years of age at the time, and it really makes what she did incredible. She did everything from fall and sink into quicksand to even fall into the lagoon.
Women Make Bank
Dawn Wells did the best financially out of any of the cast members from Gilligan’s Island. Her husband at the time was a TV show agent and cleverly told her to add a clause to the fine print of her contract saying that she would continue to receive royalties for any syndication the show earns. Considering that the show is still played on daytime television from time to time, Dawn continues to get checks from her work on the show.
The Real Mary Ann
Dawn Wells was not originally the first choice to play the role of Mary Ann. Instead, that role was supposed to go to 1960’s acting sensation and every guy’s crush Raquel Welch. However, in the end, she decided not to take the part. This may have actually saved her career, as not a single one of the cast members were able to get major roles in television ever again, as they were all associated with Gilligan’s Island.
Jim Backus’ character, Thurston Howell III, was a reference to Sherwood Schwartz’s show, The Alan Young Show. Backus would also play the character of Hubert Updyke III. Also, when Sherwood was pitching the show, 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”.
Cheapskates On Set
Jim Backus may have played a millionaire but he was known on set for being a real cheap skate. There are multiple stories of Backus going out for lunch or dinner with the Gilligan’s Island cast and coincidentally “forgetting his wallet,” so forcing one of the other cast members to pay for his meal. He did this so often that the entire cast and crew would tease him about it.
Tina Louise was quite the prima donna while acting on Gilligan’s Island, and forced the cast and crew to make numerous exceptions for her during filming. This caused a rift and frustrated the cast members. Her agent said that she would be playing the part of a movie star on a castaway island, but she did not seem to realize that the show was not about HER.
Representing American Society
Each one of the characters on Gilligan’s Island was cast in order to convey a certain type of American society at the time. It is one of the main reasons that the men are referred to by their professions as opposed to their actual names, in order to represent a particular aspect of society. Except of course, for the loveable, all around good guy Gilligan. He was just the best wasn’t he?
Dawn Wells was in her hometown of Driggs, Idaho coming back from a birthday party being held for her by the mayor of the town. As she was driving home, she started swerving, and a sheriff’s deputy pulled her over. The sheriff asked to search the car, and upon doing so found three smoked cigarettes with controlled substances in them. She was then placed in lockup, and her reputation was forever ruined.
One of the reasons that Gilligan’s island is still so popular today is due to the fact that the re-runs of the show have been broadcasted for the past 50 years, enabling three generations of Americans to enjoy the show. However, it turns out that in the beginning, the producers of the show did not think that the show would ever have its reruns played on television. We can not believe how wrong they were.
Dawn Wells was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and received a college scholarship. She went on to study theatre at the University of Washington before moving out to Los Angeles to start out as an actress. She knew she wanted to be in Hollywood, but the competition was fierce. The fact that she was very attractive, focused, and a good actress helped her achieve fame.
Sunday, Tina Louise’s memoir
Tina Louise wrote a book titled Sunday. The book is a collection of her memoirs which deal primarily about when she was a young girl between the ages of six and eight when her parents sent her off to go learn at a boarding school. She says that she wants her book to help teenagers who are not in school and who are having children at an early age.
Not Even A Dime
Bob Denver who played Gilligan and most of the other crew did not become big stars from Gilligan’s island. In fact, most of the cast only retained the residual rights until 1968. This is because none of the actors thought that the show would actually be as big as it was, they just thought that it would be a fun thing to do to put on their resume. Everyone except for Dawn, who made sure reruns were mentioned in her contract.
Tina Louise was a party pooper. She never enjoyed hanging out with the rest of the cast, and refused group interviews. This may have been because she did not want to be type casted as Ginger. One of the big issues that many of these actors encountered when they left the island was that many TV and movie producers were worried that the audience would only be able to see the actors as Gilligan’s Island characters.
Mary Ann and the Professor?
There has always been word on the grapevine that there was something romantic between Mary Ann and the Professor, and millions of Americans waited each week to see if something would happen. However, it turns out that the TV show’s producer Sherwood Schwartz wanted to keep the show as family friendly as possible.
Before the end of the show, the producers wanted to add something juicy and bring in a new ‘character’ to spice things up. They thought a friendly dinosaur would do, except that in the end it didn’t work out because it would have cost too much. “Just picture it!” Schwartz remembered Stromberg saying. “Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to ‘Mr. Ed.’”
The First Short Shorts On TV
Dawn Wells knew she needed to stick out in her role, especially in relation to how she looked compared to Tina Louise. Dawn is a lot shorter than Tina and needed to show off her lean pins. So, she made her own short shorts in order to show her body off more. Networks would not let anyone at that time show off their navel. To fix this, Dawn simply sewed on an extra piece of fabric to hide it.
When CBS redid their show line up, Gilligan’s Island sadly got cut. Their ratings were low by then and the network thought the show would be able to do well in a a less expensive time slot. However, network executives ultimately cut out Gilligan’s Island altogether for the series Gunsmoke. Bad move if you ask us.
in 2016 #RipBobDenver hashtag was trending, bringing up fan tributes from around the globe. This brought a lot of hype back around the show, and even made people who didn’t know anything about it, become interested. Even though he had died ten years earlier. Social media can be strange, who knows what will trend tomorrow, but at least it kept the show alive a little longer, which can’t sadly be said for Bob.