‘Gilligan’s Island’: Dawn Wells Depicted Each of the Female Castaways in Her Career

by Atlanta Northcutt
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What is it like to be one of the few women who end up stranded on a deserted island after a storm destroys the vessel you’re traveling on? Luckily, the crew and passengers are able to reach their own private beach, lovingly titled “Gilligan’s Island.”

The seven main characters of the show are the Skipper, Gilligan, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor, and the sweet, innocent, and natural beauty, Mary Ann.

Other than almost drowning and having the boat you’re clinging onto beginning to sink, all of the hope for a cheerful beach experience also starts sinking with the ship. Once you finally make your way to the shore, you can spend some time relaxing on the white, soft sand with the sun covering you in warmth.

However, after the realization hits that this particular vacation won’t be filled with tanning or drinking pina coladas, or even getting caught in the rain, for that matter, fear begins to set in.

Welcome to “Gilligan’s Island”

After the shipwreck of the S.S. Minnow, the female characters on the hit TV show wonder what else is there to do in a Cast Away type of situation? Without Tom Hanks there, the ladies begin to decorate!

They make sure to add their own special touches while decorating the huts with flowers, vines, and designs that even the current-day home decorators on HGTV would be impressed by.

And scientists would be baffled to discover how easy it is for the “Professor” to create a lie detector test, a sewing machine, a washing machine, and a battery charger made from saltwater and coconuts. The boat is a lost cause, though.

The glamorous, luscious, and red-haired, bombshell movie star, Ginger. Even when I recall the character of Ginger, all I can imagine is her dramatically flipping her hair or constantly applying bright red lipstick.

Meet Mary Ann

Mary Ann is portrayed by the actress Dawn Wells. Mary Ann is from the country, of course, and appears quite wholesome and innocent with her braided pigtails. However, she does love those tiny short shorts and revealing tops.

The classic, unanswered question from Gilligan’s Island, of course is ‘Mary Ann or Ginger?’ Mary Ann was created to be a sharp contrast to the famous and beautiful actress, Ginger. At first, the role of Mary Ann wasn’t even listed in the credits.

However, the two women aren’t that different seeing as Dawn Wells, who was chosen to play the role of Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, was a beauty pageant queen before landing the role of a lifetime. She won the title of Miss Nevada. Wells then went on to compete in the 1960 Miss America pageant prior to being cast as Mary Ann in Gilligan’s Island.

Wells began acting in small appearances on dramatic TV shows, where she became typecast as the sultry woman.

After she was chosen to play the character of Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, she found immediate fame and was pictured as a down-home girl with sex appeal. Hollywood saw her in that light, and it was hard for her to break through that mold.

Wells has gushed over Gilligan’s Island. She excitedly took on the roles of Ginger and the millionaire’s wife, Lovey Howell.

The Show Takes Off In Many Directions

Gilligan’s Island became a thriving enterprise and cultural phenomenon. A 1982 cartoon, Gilligan’s Planet, is the second animated sequel to be based on Gilligan’s Island. In 1974, The New Adventures of Gilligan appeared on TV screens on Saturday mornings.

Most of the cast happily returned to do voiceovers for their characters. However, a cartoon professional came in to use her vocal talents for Ginger and Mary Ann.

Tina Louise, who is the star that plays the beautiful Ginger, never wanted to revisit her role. She also decided not to lend her voice to any upcoming Gilligan Island’s themed projects. It seems she has moved on and is working to create a name for herself in more serious roles.

However, Wells didn’t hold back her excitement to be Mary Ann again. She’s been one of the most excited actors to want to participate in revisiting the role that made her famous.

“At first I tried to break my Gilligan image, but now it’s a hoot. I’m like the Beaver—part of TV history,” she tells People magazine in a 1985 interview.

Due to working on other projects, she was unable to be a part of The New Adventures of Gilligan. Then a new opportunity presented itself. The film entitled Gilligan’s Planet allowed the castaways to ride their Gilligan’s Island stardom far into outer space. Of course, Wells couldn’t resist.

She used her voice not only to be Mary Ann, but she took over Ginger’s speaking roles too.

By 2006, only three of the original Gilligan’s Island actors were still living. The series creator, Sherwood Schwartz, was also in good health.

Gilligan’s Island: The Musical

Since Gilligan’s Island was such a hit, everyone decided to work on a new project for the show. Schwartz produced a musical, which, of course, was titled Gilligan’s Island: The Musical. It debuted in Florida. The music was written by Schwartz and even some of his family were involved.

Now, the new Gilligan’s Island: The Musical would include former legendary stars, such as Barry Williams. Williams is best known as Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch. He would play Thurston Howell III, also known as “the millionaire.” Lovey, Thurston’s wife, would be played by Dawn Wells.

“I thought it would be such an honor to play her,” Wells expressed to the Sun-Sentinel. “[Natalie Schafer] was such a dear friend and such a wonderful woman, and very much like her character.”

Dawn Wells passed away in December of 2020. She was one of the two last surviving stars of the series, but passed away due to complications with COVID-19.

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