‘Gilligan’s Island’: When and How Did Gilligan Actor Bob Denver Die?

by Joe Rutland

“Gilligan’s Island” star Bob Denver provided star power for the CBS sitcom about seven stranded castaways. When did Denver die?

Denver died on Sept. 2, 2005, at 70 years old. He had been hospitalized with cancer at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital, according to an NBC News article.

“He was my everything and I will love him forever,” Dreama Denver, his fourth wife, said in a statement in 2005. Denver had four children through his four marriages.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Actor Found Himself Typecast When Seeking Other Roles

Playing Gilligan on “Gilligan’s Island” happened to work against the actor, though. He became typecast as that character when going out and seeking other roles. On that show, Denver portrayed Gilligan next to Alan Hale Jr. [The Skipper].

Denver brought some clout into the comedy sitcom. He’d just finished playing beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” opposite actor Dwayne Hickman. That show, also on CBS, ran between 1959-63. Fans really dug Krebs’ style and he always had a verbal reaction to anyone that suggested he go to work.

For instance, if Gillis said Krebs could go apply for a job and work, then Krebs would screech “Work!” really loud.

Classic TV Show Almost Got Fourth Season Except For Another Show’s Popularlity

“Gilligan’s Island” left network television after its third season. Initially, the show received solid ratings and was being considered for a spot and a fourth season. But CBS thought about cancelling “Gunsmoke” at that time. You can guess which show won out for a lineup spot.

Denver would reprise his Gilligan role in three TV movies, including “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.” The plot of that one? Rescuing all of the show’s characters from the sandy, palm tree-filled island.

He was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., on Jan. 9, 1935, and raised in Brownwood, Texas. Denver graduated from Loyola University with a degree in political science. Ironically, Denver met Hickman as both were students at Loyola at the time. His first job, though, was as a teacher at a Catholic elementary school in California. While there, Denver ended up going to audition for the “Dobie Gillis” role. Goodbye, teaching. Hello, acting.

One of the things his costars remembered him for was making sure they received equal credit. In the show’s first season, there were no start-of-the-show credits for Russell Johnson [The Professor] and Dawn Wells [Mary Ann]. Denver went to “Gilligan’s Island” show producers and network executives to change it. He won out and, in the second season, the show’s theme song reflected additional credits for Johnson and Wells.

“Gilligan’s Island” found another life in the world of television reruns. For nearly 50 years, generation after generation has fallen in love with the show’s cast. Denver took the lead role and made it one people still remember him for today.