“Gilligan’s Island” was celebrating its 50th anniversary. So, as usual, Dawn Wells was busy answering questions about her beloved character, Mary Ann. After all, the role launched her career.
Dawn Wells’ character was so popular then and still so popular now. She’ll always be part of the age-old TV question, “Ginger or Mary Ann?”
The setting for the Dawn Wells interview was in Vancouver in 2014 as she made one of her many appearances. They paid the bills. There were no royalties from Gilligan’s Island. And the reporter asked Wells about the amount of fan mail she received. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who went to the effort of writing a letter and dropping it off at the mailbox.
Question: Is it true you used to receive 3,000 to 5,000 fan letters a week?
“Oh, probably not that much,” Dawn Wells said. “But I get fan letters all the time. I can’t go anywhere in the world (without hearing) ‘Mary Ann! Mary Ann!’
Gilligan’s Island Still Popular All These Years Later
Wells reflected on the popularity of Gilligan’s Island. The show, about seven castaways stranded on an island, only ran for three seasons. However, the show is still running, somewhere, in syndication.
“The press thought we were the stupidest show that ever went on the air,” Wells said. “Until the ratings came in. Fifty years later, they’re still laughing.
“We’re loved all over the world. (It’s) fifty years, this year (in 2014). (It’s been translated into) thirty languages. And I’m greeted with love everywhere, it’s really nice.”
Who didn’t love Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island? She played the wholesome Midwestern girl who won a trip in a radio station contest. Mary Ann loved her gingham shirts and short denim shorts. She put bows in her hair.
Meanwhile, Ginger was the only other single woman among the castaways. She was the sexy redhead, the movie star who came straight to the SS Minnow from a night-club performance. That’s why she always was wearing an evening gown.
Wells said she always was asked about the Ginger-Mary Ann dynamic on Gilligan’s Island.
“As a matter of fact, I’ve got a t-shirt that’s a ballot that says ‘Ginger or Mary Ann, the ultimate dilemma.’ But it is the question. You can go anywhere and say ‘Ginger or Mary Ann,’ you don’t have to say what show it is, everybody gets it. And I always win.”
Sadly, Tina Louise, who played Ginger, is the only cast member of Gilligan’s Island still with us. Dawn Wells died Dec. 30 of complications from COVID-19. She was 82.