‘Gilligan’s Island’: Show’s Original Theme Was Created by Legendary ‘Star Wars’ Composer John Williams

by Joe Rutland

Talk about your out-of-this-world connection. When “Gilligan’s Island” meets “Star Wars” composer John Williams, then it’s worth a look.

Williams, who has gained fame beyond “Star Wars” in movie soundtracks, actually put together the first theme song for the CBS sitcom. According to an article from MEtv.com, Williams went by the name Johnny Williams in those days.

“Gilligan’s Island” show creator Sherwood Schwartz had a hand in how it sounded. But it was Williams who put the music to it. This theme song only appears in the show’s pilot.

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Initial Theme Song Included ‘Two Secretaries’ Mention

Obviously, once CBS gave the go-ahead, a different theme song was created and the pilot one was ditched. This first draft, if you will, talked about “two secretaries” in the theme. That didn’t happen. We know you can hum the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song in your head right now. Just remember, though, that a tweak was made between the first and second season.

You know the one we’re talking about, right? At the end of the first season theme, “the rest” was used and left out the “Professor” and “Mary Ann.” Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells, respectively, didn’t receive opening screen credits at first.

That changed, though, when show star Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, went to show executives and pretty much demanded the two actors get included. He gave them sort of a “my way or the highway” ultimatum. Knowing that losing Denver would be harmful to the show, they made the move.

Give Denver credit for sticking up for his castmates. “Gilligan’s Island” only lasted for three seasons on CBS, yet found an everlasting life among the world of syndicated TV.

Show Star Didn’t Think It Would Even Last Beyond Initial 13 Weeks

We spoke earlier of Johnson, who played Professor Roy Hinkley on “Gilligan’s Island.” Bet you didn’t know his full character’s name, eh?

Anyway, Johnson really didn’t think the show had a chance of lasting beyond 13 weeks. For real.

“Oh, I thought, ‘It’s a nice job. We’ll be, CBS, we’ll be dead in 13 weeks,'” Johnson said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “You know, that was the run of a show in those days. Everything was 13 weeks. 13, 13, 13.

“You know, you got a 13-week option,” he said. “We figured, ‘Well, what the heck, we’ll work together for 13 weeks, guys.’ That was it.”

Johnson was a bit faulty in his reasoning. Not only did “Gilligan’s Island” go beyond 13 weeks, but it also went bang-zoom in the ratings. So, the show was picked up for a full season. He did two more seasons as the “Professor” before the show was canceled.

He appeared in reunion movies and TV specials for the show after it ended. Johnson died on Jan. 16, 2014, at 89 years old.