“Gilligan’s Island” is a classic American television sitcom that aired from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967. Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the show revolves around the misadventures of seven castaways who are stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific. It’s known for its enduring popularity and cultural impact.
The show’s ensemble cast features Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, and Dawn Wells. The series follows the comic adventures of seven castaways as they try to survive on an island where they are shipwrecked. Most episodes revolve around the dissimilar castaways’ conflicts and their unsuccessful attempts to escape their plight, with the ship’s first mate, Gilligan, usually being responsible for the failures.
Gilligan’s Island ran for 98 episodes. All 36 episodes of the first season were filmed in black and white and were later colorized for syndication. The show’s second and third seasons (62 episodes) and the three television film sequels (broadcast between 1978 and 1982) were filmed in color.
The two-man crew of the charter boat SS Minnow and five passengers on a “three-hour tour” from Honolulu run into a storm and are shipwrecked on an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Their efforts to be rescued are typically thwarted by the inadvertent conduct of the hapless first mate, Gilligan.
In 1997, show creator Sherwood Schwartz explained that the underlying concept, people with different characters and backgrounds being in a situation where they need to learn how to get along and cooperate with each other to survive, is still “the most important idea in the world today”.
- Bob Denver (January 9, 1935 – September 2, 2005) as Willy Gilligan – The bumbling and good-hearted first mate of the S.S. Minnow. Bob Denver had some minor roles in TV shows and appeared in a recurring role in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” After “Gilligan’s Island,” he starred in “The Good Guys” and made guest appearances on various shows. He also reprised his role as Gilligan in the TV movies and voiced the character in animated adaptations.
- Alan Hale Jr. (March 8, 1921 – January 2, 1990) as Skipper Jonas Grumby – The ship’s captain who is responsible for the group’s well-being on the island. Alan Hale had a long and successful film and television career before “Gilligan’s Island,” often playing supporting roles in Westerns and adventure films. Some of his notable pre-“Gilligan’s Island” films include “The West Point Story” (1950) and “The Lady Takes a Sailor” (1949). Hale was a familiar face on television, making guest appearances in numerous series, including “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” He appeared in several films, including “Johnny Dangerously” (1984) and “Moving Violations” (1985). Hale’s last film role was in “Back to the Beach” (1987), a comedy musical starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
- Jim Backus (February 25, 1913 – July 3, 1989) as Thurston Howell III – a Wall Street millionaire. Jim Backus was an accomplished character actor in Hollywood. He appeared in numerous films, including “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), and had a successful voice acting career and is particularly remembered for providing the voice for the iconic animated character Mr. Magoo. He also had a recurring role in the TV series “I Married Joan” from 1952 to 1955 and played Mr. Quincy in “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.” After the end of “Gilligan’s Island,” Jim Backus made guest appearances on popular TV shows, such as “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Jeffersons.” He appeared in films like “Pete’s Dragon” (1977) and “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” (1964). Backus also returned to voice acting, notably in “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie” (1979).
- Natalie Schafer (November 5, 1900 – April 10, 1991) as Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell – Mrs. Howell, a pampered woman, the millionaire’s wife. Natalie Schafer appeared in numerous films during the 1940s and 1950s, such as “The Snake Pit” (1948) and “An American in Paris” (1951), and also had roles in popular TV shows like “I Love Lucy,” “The Ford Television Theatre,” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
- Tina Louise (born February 11, 1934) as Ginger Grant – A glamorous movie star. Tina Louise began her career on Broadway and gained attention for her performances in “Li’l Abner” (1956) and “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” (1955). In the late 1950s, she transitioned to film and had roles in movies such as “God’s Little Acre” (1958), which earned her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer. She was also featured in “The Trap” (1959), a Canadian adventure film. She had guest appearances on popular TV shows like “The Real McCoys” and “Perry Mason.” After the show ended, she appeared in movies such as “The Day of the Outlaw” (1959), “For Those Who Think Young” (1964), and “The Wrecking Crew” (1968). In the realm of television, she had guest roles on series like “Kojak,” “Dallas,” and “Fantasy Island.” Louise continued her career as an actress and writer, with a published book of poetry titled “Sunday” and her autobiography “Sunday’s Child.”
- Russell Johnson (November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014) as Roy Hinkley, Jr. – The Professor, a versatile scientist. Russell Johnson began his acting career in the early 1950s and had roles in movies like “Law and Order” (1953) and “This Island Earth” (1955), which is considered a classic of 1950s science fiction cinema. He also made guest appearances in popular shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” and “The Lone Ranger.” Following “Gilligan’s Island,” Johnson appeared in various television series, including “The Invaders,” “The Fugitive,” and “The Virginian.” Johnson also acted in a few movies, such as “The Spy with My Face” (1965) and “It Came from Beneath the Sea” (1955). He wrote several books, including a memoir titled “Here on Gilligan’s Isle,” which provided insights into his life and experiences on the show. Johnson became an author, penning several novels, including science fiction works, and non-fiction books. He also worked as a motivational speaker, using his experiences and insights to inspire audiences.
- Dawn Wells (October 18, 1938 – December 30, 2020) as Mary Ann Summers – a wholesome farm girl from Winfield, Kansas, who won the trip and tour in a lottery. Dawn Wells began her acting career in the early 1960s and had guest appearances in popular TV series like “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick,” and “Bonanza.” After the show ended, She appeared in TV shows like “The Invaders,” “The Wild Wild West,” and “Vega$,” among others. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wells reprised her role as Mary Ann in three TV movie spin-offs of “Gilligan’s Island”: “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” (1978), “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” (1979), and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” (1981). She made numerous guest appearances on game shows and talk shows and remained a beloved figure in Hollywood. In addition to her acting career, she became an author, penning several books. Her autobiography, “A Guide to Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?” was particularly popular.
- Charles Maxwell (December 28, 1913 – August 7, 1993) as the voice of the uncredited recurring radio announcer – Although his role as the radio announcer was a minor and uncredited one, Maxwell had a notable career in radio and voice acting. One of his most famous radio roles was as the voice of “Harry” in the radio show “The Adventures of Philip Marlowe,” which ran from 1947 to 1951. After the show, he provided voices for various animated television series and films, including “The Jetsons,” “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” and “George of the Jungle.”
The Gilligan’s Island radio was actually NOT a prop. It was a working radio…Packard Bell model AR-851 table-top AM radio…previously purchased by show creator Sherwood Schwartz to listen to Dodger games in his office. Schwartz didn’t like the black radio used in the pilot…thought the white radio would show better. (He had the prop department add the handle and antenna for effect). When the show wrapped after the 3rd season, Schwartz took the now iconic TV prop back to his office, plugged it back in, and continued to listen to Dodger games on it for decades….
Some Notable Episodes
- “Two on a Raft” (Season 1, Episode 1) The S.S. Minnow sets sail, but a storm shipwrecks the crew on a deserted island.
- “Goodnight, Sweet Skipper” (Season 1, Episode 4) The castaways believe the Skipper has passed away, and they hold a wake.
- “The Friendly Physician” (Season 1, Episode 5) A phony doctor arrives on the island and causes trouble.
- “Operation: Steam Heat” (Season 2, Episode 25) The Professor and Ginger attempt to build a steam engine to signal for rescue.
- “The Pigeon” (Season 3, Episode 28) A homing pigeon could help the castaways send a message for help.
- “Beauty is as Beauty Does” (Season 2, Episode 2) Ginger believes she’s lost her looks, leading to a beauty contest on the island.
- “Voodoo Something to Me” (Season 1, Episode 3) The castaways believe a voodoo curse is affecting them.
- “Forget Me Not” (Season 1, Episode 30) Gilligan suffers from amnesia after a fall.
- “Diogenes, Won’t You Please Go Home?” (Season 1, Episode 31) A cranky hermit named Diogenes lands on the island.
- “It’s Magic” (Season 1, Episode 33) A magician’s crate washes up on the island, and the castaways believe he’s a wizard.
- “Gilligan’s Mother-in-Law” (Season 2, Episode 1) A witch doctor arrives on the island and convinces the castaways that he can control the volcano.
- “Smile, You’re on Mars Camera” (Season 2, Episode 4) A camera washes ashore, and Gilligan accidentally takes a picture that makes it look like they’re on Mars.
- “Quick Before It Sinks” (Season 2, Episode 6) The island is sinking, and the castaways must find a way to stop it.
- “Nyet, Nyet – Not Yet” (Season 2, Episode 9) A Soviet spacecraft lands on the island, but the crew believes it’s Mars.
- “Hi-Fi Gilligan” (Season 2, Episode 10) The castaways build a makeshift radio, and the alien radio frequency they pick up causes Gilligan to become a human antenna.
- “Gilligan vs. Gilligan” (Season 3, Episode 2) A mad scientist creates an evil duplicate of Gilligan.
- “Pass the Vegetables, Please” (Season 3, Episode 3) A plant food accidentally makes the castaways super-intelligent.
- “The Producer” (Season 3, Episode 4) A Hollywood producer lands on the island, inspiring Ginger to make a movie.
- “Voodoo” (Season 3, Episode 5) A voodoo queen arrives, claiming she can help them get rescued.
- “Where There’s a Will” (Season 3, Episode 6) The castaways believe Mr. Howell has died and leave him an inheritance.
- “Man With a Net” (Season 3, Episode 7) A big-game hunter comes to the island to catch Gilligan.
- “Ring Around Gilligan” (Season 3, Episode 9) A crate of helium washes ashore, causing various comedic mishaps.
The Professor was our first MacGyver! He could just about repair, build, or invent anything including a lie detector, roulette wheel, pool table, hot air balloon, washing machine, potion to cure Gilligan’s double vision, shark repellent, Geiger counter, battery charger,
Nitroglycerine, Jet pack fuel, bamboo pedal-powered vehicle, paint, weather stripping, bamboo telescope, smoke bomb, phonograph, seaweed shampoo, pedal-powered movie projector, coconut headphones, pedal-powered chainsaw, stethoscope, blood pressure gauge, and a dental drill to name a few.
He also brought a nice selection of books on a three-hour tour including Rare Tropical Plants, Chemistry, The Criminal Law, Tropical Diseases, Physics, A World of Facts, Volcanoes and their Destructive Powers, Psychology, Hamlet,
The World of Insects, Integrated Calculus, Navy Regulations, How To Tell a Mushroom From a Toadstool, The History of Tree Surgery, Four-Masted Schooners I Have Known, The Carpenter’s Handbook, and A Million Ways to Make a Million.
A Few of the Actors Who Made an Appearance on the Show
- Zsa Zsa Gabor in “Lovey’s Secret Admirer” (Season 1, Episode 11) – She plays herself, landing on the island while attempting to break a record for flights around the world.
- Phil Silvers in “The Second Ginger Grant” (Season 1, Episode 28) – He plays Harold Hecuba, a famous Hollywood producer who discovers Ginger on the island and offers her a movie role.
- Don Rickles in “You’ve Been Disconnected” (Season 2, Episode 10) – He plays Norbert Wiley, a gangster who is temporarily marooned on the island.
- Phil Harris in “Seer Gilligan” (Season 2, Episode 27) – He plays Duke Williams, a con artist who tricks Gilligan into digging for buried treasure.
- Hans Conried in “Take a Dare” (Season 2, Episode 29) – He plays TV producer/actor Harold Hecuba (replacing Phil Silvers’ character) in another episode, arranging for the castaways to perform dangerous stunts for his television show.
- Richard Kiel in “Big Man on a Little Stick” (Season 3, Episode 12) – He plays Zorbo, a giant who threatens the castaways.
- Vito Scotti in “Bang! Bang! Bang!” (Season 3, Episode 20) – He plays Dr. Boris Balinkoff, an evil scientist who subjects the castaways to various experiments.
- Mel Blanc voiced some animals in three episodes
- Henny Youngman in “Beauty Is as Beauty Does” (Season 1, Episode 12) – He plays the talent agent who discovers Ginger.
- Jim Backus’s wife, Henny Backus in “The Producer” (Season 3, Episode 4) – She plays the wealthy Mrs. Gladys Howell II, who arrives on the island.
- Rory Calhoun in “Voodoo” (Season 3, Episode 5) – He plays the bogus jungle doctor who arrives on the island.
- Alan Hale Jr.’s real-life son, Alan Hale III in “So Sorry, My Island Now” (Season 3, Episode 11) – He plays Corporal Alan Hale, an Army officer who believes he’s landed on a deserted island.
- Larry Storch in “You’ve Been Disconnected” (Season 2, Episode 10) – He plays agent Zsa Zsa Gaboora, a spy marooned on the island.
- Denny Miller in “Smile, You’re on Mars Camera” (Season 2, Episode 4) – He plays the NASA astronaut who accidentally crashes on the island.
- James Wellman in “Topsy-Turvy” (Season 2, Episode 15) – He plays Gilligan’s lookalike from a neighboring island.
- Frank DeVol in “Pass the Vegetables, Please” (Season 3, Episode 3) – He plays the character Bongo Benny, a radio host who arrives on the island.
- Jim Boles in “Gilligan’s Mother-in-Law” (Season 1, Episode 11) – He plays Whitney Van Moxon, the potential husband for Mrs. Howell.
- Ida Lupino in “And Then There Were None” (Season 2, Episode 7) – She plays wrongway feldman, an aviator who crashes on the island.
- Charles Maxwell in “Mr. and Mrs. ????” (Season 2, Episode 8) – He plays Jethro Watts, a con artist posing as Mr. Howell’s brother.
- Larry D. Mann in “The Friendly Physician” (Season 1, Episode 5) – He plays Dr. Boris Balinkoff, an imposter posing as a physician.
- Diane Ladd in “Erika Tiffany Smith to the Rescue” (Season 2, Episode 13) – She plays Erika Tiffany Smith, a rich heiress and adventurer.
- Bill Baldwin in “Gilligan’s Personal Magnetism” (Season 2, Episode 20) – He plays a robot named B-1.
- Kit Smythe in “Topsy-Turvy” (Season 2, Episode 15) – She plays the native girl Kalani who mistakes Gilligan for her husband.
- Jay Robinson in “Beware of Habeebas” (Season 2, Episode 26) – He plays Ahmed Habeeba, a sultan who maroons the castaways.
It was a three-hour tour that the Howell’s carried trunks of clothes and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, Mary Ann and Ginger had a nice supply of clothes, evening gowns, make-up, and hair supplies,
and the Professor carried the aforementioned books and lots of lab equipment. Seemingly a little strange but it made for great fun and laughs. Ginger and Mary Ann were very good at making their clothes too.
The Ballad of Gilligan's Island Lyrics by George Wyle and Sherwood Shwartz The theme song was recorded by The Wellingtons, who went on to appear in the Second Season episode, Don't Bug the Mosquitoes, but during the Second and Third Season , it was re-recorded by The Eligibles. Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, A tale of a fateful trip That started from this tropic port Aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, The skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day For a three hour tour, a three hour tour. The weather started getting rough, The tiny ship was tossed, If not for the courage of the fearless crew The Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle With Gilligan The Skipper too, The millionaire and his wife, The movie star The Professor and Mary Ann,* Here on Gilligan's Isle. (*In the original version it's "and the rest". The Professor and Mary Ann were not named) Full Version Continues: Now this is the tale of our castaways, They're here for a long, long time, They'll have to make the best of things, It's an uphill climb. The first mate and his Skipper too, Will do their very best, To make the others comfortable, In their tropic island nest. No phone, no lights, no motor car, Not a single luxury, Like Robinson Crusoe, It's primitive as can be. So join us here each week my friend, You're sure to get a smile, From seven stranded castaways, Here on "Gilligan's Isle."
The show was filmed at the CBS Radford Studios complex in Studio City, Los Angeles. The same stage was later used for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Roseanne, the latter of which featured a daydream parodying Gilligan’s Island in one episode.
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.
I loved Gilligan’s Island as a kid and I still love all the reruns. It is funny every time I catch an episode. All three seasons and 98 episodes are a hoot. The last episode of the show, “Gilligan the Goddess”,
aired on April 17, 1967, and ended just like the rest, with the castaways still stranded on the island. It was not known at the time that it would be the series finale, as a fourth season was expected but then canceled.
- Sherwood Schwartz (November 14, 1916 – July 12, 2011) was an American television producer and writer best known for creating iconic sitcoms. He started his career as a comedy writer and later achieved significant fame as the creator of two beloved television shows: “Gilligan’s Island,” which premiered in 1964, and “The Brady Bunch,” which premiered in 1969. Schwartz’s work left a lasting impact on popular culture, and his shows continue to be celebrated for their humor and enduring appeal. He left a legacy of laughter and nostalgia for audiences of all generations. [Back]
- “MacGyver” is an American action-adventure television series that originally aired from 1985 to 1992. The show, created by Lee David Zlotoff, follows the resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver, portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson, who uses his exceptional problem-solving skills and scientific knowledge to defuse dangerous situations, often with minimal tools or equipment. MacGyver’s ability to engineer creative solutions with everyday objects, along with his commitment to non-violence, made him a unique and beloved character. The series became a cultural phenomenon and has since spawned various adaptations and a dedicated fan base. [Back]
- Lyrics https://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/gilligansislandlyrics.html
- “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” https://gilligan.fandom.com/wiki/The_Ballad_of_Gilligan%27s_Isle
- “11 of the Professor’s Best Inventions on Gilligan’s Island”(Jan 17, 2014) https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/54580/11-professors-best-inventions-gilligans-island
- “Gilligan’s Island” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilligan%27s_Island
- “11 things the Professor built on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ instead of fixing the boat” (Feb 24, 2016) https://www.metv.com/lists/11-things-the-professor-built-on-gilligans-island-instead-of-fixing-the-boat
- “Reflections On Professor Roy Hinkley Ph.D. and His Time On Gilligan’s Island” (Updated on April 30, 2021) https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Reflections-On-Professor-Roy-Hinkley-PhD
- “Gilligan’s Island faced criticism over Mary Ann and Ginger’s clothing” (January 23, 2023) https://www.metv.com/stories/gilligans-island-faced-criticism-over-mary-ann-and-gingers-clothing
- IMDb. (n.d.). “MacGyver” (1985–1992) – TV Series. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088559/
- IMDb. (n.d.). Sherwood Schwartz – Biography. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0777108/bio