‘Gilligan’s Island’: Jayne Mansfield Turned Down the Role of Ginger

by Taylor Cunningham

In 1964, Jayne Mansfield took some terrible career advice and turned down the part of Ginger Grant on Gilligan’s Island.

Over the course of nearly two decades, six actresses played the famous red-headed movie star in Gilligan’s Island. But overall, Tina Louise was the most well-known. Aside from the first episode, she appeared in the entire original series.

In the pilot, Kit Smythe had the role. But she played an entirely different persona than the one we know and love today.

In the original episode, Ginger was a secretary. But the producers decided they wanted the character to be a glamourous silver-screen diva. So they immediately began looking for a Hollywood starlet to fill the part. And at first, they had their hearts set on Jayne Mansfield.

At the time, Mansfield had become famous for replacing Marilyn Monroe in the play Bus Stop. But the off-Broadway production was nearing its end. And she had no prospective jobs in sight.

But Gilligan’s Island called Jayne Mansfield’s agents in 1964 to offer the blonde bombshell the part of Ginger Grant. Considering how iconic the series became, taking the gig would have been in the actress’s best interest. But as we all know, she turned it down.

So why did Jayne Mansfield turn down such a career-changing role?

As the story goes, she had just ended her six-year marriage to Mickey Hargitay. And things were heating up between her and her would-be third husband, Matt Cimber.

Climber directed Bus Stop, and he fancied himself an authority in the Hollywood industry. He ended up telling Mansfield that taking the role would be career suicide. And she listened.

Of course, the decision didn’t pan out for Jayne Mansfield. Shortly after ending her run with Bus Stop, she only appeared in a handful of movies, with her last being a highly provocative film directed by, you guessed it, Matt Climber.

Tina Louise Reveals Which ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Co-Star Was ‘Sexiest’

Tina Louise spent three years playing a castaway on Gilligan’s Island, which of course got her thinking about which one of her co-stars would be her best match if she really were stuck on a desert island.

And during a sit down with The New York Post, the now 87-year-old actress revealed who she thought was her “sexiest” castmate. But it’s probably not who you think it was.

“It’s Jim [Backus],” she admitted. Backus played Thurston Howell III.

“Jim was hilarious,” she said. “Humor, hon. He was so funny and he used to go to the psychiatrist every day and tell me the news of the day … But just in general, he had a great sense of humor. He was adorable.”

Historically, fans have thought that the professor (Russell Johnson) was the dreamiest star on the show. But Tina Louise never felt a connection with him.

“I think the Professor read too many books,” she continued. “[And Gilligan] was just very nervous and scared to death and talked so fast. He was so shy.”