‘Gilligan’s Island’: Where Did Alan Hale Jr.’s Catchphrase ‘Little Buddy’ Come From?

by Thad Mitchell

Despite running for only three seasons, the Gilligan’s Island legacy lives on as American cultural icon and will for years to come.

A big reason for the show’s success was the comedic chemistry between actor Alan Hale Jr. and Bob Denver. On Gilligan’s island, Hale plays “The Skipper” and Denver plays the titular character Gilligan. On the show, the skipper often refers to Gilligan as “little buddy” while paling around as castoffs on a deserted island.

The catch phrase was so popular that it is still in use by people today. According to Hale, the catchphrase “Little Buddy” was taken from one of his real-life father’s school friends. Hale’s father, Alan Hale Sr. was also an actor most known for playing a wide variety of characters through his career.

Hale Jr.’s acting career spans four decades and he has dozens of film and television credits to his name. Despite his long career in Hollywood he is and will continue to be mostly known for his role as Captain Jonas Grumby, a.k.a. The Skipper.

Gilligan’s Island is ‘Nonsense’ Says Alan Hale Jr.

In a 1964 interview, he shares his thoughts on what makes he and Denver a comedy duo for the ages. He says their on-screen characters were compatible due to the chemistry he and Denver share.

“The Skipper lent himself to certainly being a nice fellow, a bumbling fellow, of course,” he says. “He had a perfect foil in Gilligan, but dearly loved Gilligan. They were really good friends. Between the two of them, nothing ever seemed to dovetail. The only thing that did dovetail was their lasting friendship. They really were fond of each other.”

Hale made a name for himself on Gilligan’s Island and became one of the most recognizable faces in all of show business. He calls the show “nonsense” and says it became popular because “everyone needs a little nonsense in their lives.”

“I don’t think there was a message at all,” he says. “I think it was just a misnomer, ‘deserted island.’ We were there; it wasn’t deserted. And who deserted it? Nobody was there… The big thing about it was nonsense. Everybody has to have nonsense in their lives.”