‘Gilligan’s Island’: Don Rickles Guest-Starred as a Conniving Criminal in Season 3

by Joe Rutland

Comedian Don Rickles found himself far, far away from Las Vegas as he made an appearance during the third season of “Gilligan’s Island.”

Rickles, the master of put-down humor, was taking on sitcom roles even while playing nightclubs in the 1960s. In an episode called “The Kidnapper,” he played Norbett Wiley, a conniving criminal. Wiley holds the three female castaways Ginger [Tina Louise], Mary Ann [Dawn Wells], and Mrs. Howell [Natalie Schafer] hostage.

He wants ransom money, but the guys end up capturing Wiley. One can say Wiley wasn’t too wily in this episode. Anyway, the “Gilligan’s Island” crew decided to reform old Norbert from his wicked, wicked ways. They could have held him as a hostage but didn’t do so.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Became Another Show For Rickles To Make Presence Felt

By the time this show aired in 1966, Rickles was already a known stand-up coming in nightclubs from Las Vegas to Miami Beach. He was a close friend of singer Frank Sinatra and established himself as one of entertainment’s top stars. Rickles, who also had a pretty solid movie career, died on April 6, 2017, at 90 years old.

This was the last season for “Gilligan’s Island” on CBS. It lasted three seasons and left the network with the seven stranded castaways still on the island. They would be rescued years later in a TV movie.

Sherwood Schwartz created the show and would go on to also create “The Brady Bunch” for ABC. Both sitcoms have lasted the test of time thanks to the wonderful world of reruns.

Future Movie Star Also Appeared On Show As 13-Year-Old

While we mentioned Rickles, another top-name star, albeit much younger than Rickles at the time, found himself in a guest-starring role, too.

Kurt Russell, who has appeared in movies like “Escape From New York” and Disney classics like “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,” played Jungle Boy. Yes, Russell appeared in the “Gilligan’s Island” episode “Gilligan Meets Jungle Boy.”

Gilligan [Bob Denver] ends up meeting a kid who had been in the jungle. He and the other castaways try to get Jungle Boy to speak words or in English. It doesn’t work out. But the appearance on the CBS sitcom helped Russell get a 10-year contract with Walt Disney Studios. That’s why you see Russell in so many dang films from that studio when he was younger.

Who said good things can’t happen on “Gilligan’s Island.”

Much later in life, Russell would end up meeting and having one-time “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” star Goldie Hawn as his partner. Other movies on the Russell resume’ include “Backdraft,” “Tombstone,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. Hard to believe, but Russell has never received an Academy Award in his vast film career.