Ginger was the glamour girl on Gilligan’s Island. She always wore an evening gown. And a little sand and sun never messed up her hair or makeup.
But in an interview with Esquire in 2019, Louise revealed that it was someone else in her family who really was the scene-stealer.
“My mother was the center of attention,” Louise wrote. “She just wanted to be where it was going on in every way. I’m much more laid-back. When I became famous, I felt in a little way that I’d caught up. But I never really did. You could never catch up to my mother.”
Tina Louise grew up in New York. She was the only child of Sylvia and Joseph Blacker. Her mother was a model. Louise’s parents divorced when she was a child and her mother raised her. Louise’s father owned a candy shop in Brooklyn. That’s a dream situation for most any kid. By the time she was 2, Louise was featured in ads for the candy store.
By the time she was a teen-ager, Louise appeared in the Broadway production of Lil Abner, a show based on the comic strip. She played the character Appassionata von Climax. There was another future 1960s TV star in the show. Julie Newmar went on to play the campy Catwoman in Batman.
Broadway Role Eventually Led to Gilligan’s Island
The right Hollywood people took notice of Louise. By 1958, she had a role in her first feature film, God’s Little Acre. That’s the same year the National Arts Council named her the world’s most beautiful redhead.
Then we all know the rest. By 1964, her career was in high gear. She won the role of Ginger Grant, the sexy movie star who had the misfortune of going on the S.S. Minnow. Gilligan’s Island stayed on the air until 1967.
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, once said Louise didn’t like being on the series.
“Even if Tina didn’t like doing the series, she was certainly no problem,” Wells said in 2016. “It’s interesting because she was a gorgeous, glamorous girl. Why wouldn’t she be doing a gorgeous, glamorous role?”
Although Louise found it difficult to find a big role after Gilligan’s Island, she still turned down all island reunion movies. She was the only member of the cast who never appeared in one of the reunion shows.
With the death of Wells in late December, Louise is the last surviving cast member of the show. She’s aging like you’d think of a glamorous Ginger.
And in that Esquire essay, Louise offered some other thoughts on a variety of subjects. Pretend she’s still Ginger from Gilligan’s Island when you read along.
She says she never feared taking off her clothes for a role.
“I’m not that shy,” she wrote. “I was never really afraid of nudity in a movie. But nothing came up where I thought it was important to do something like that.”
She believes the most special roses are mauve. And that drinking milk poisons your body.
Here’s something Ginger on Gilligan’s Island would say: “Age is not a number. Some people are way older than others who are the same numerical age because of the way they carry themselves, because of the way they don’t stand up straight, or the way their bellies stick out. I don’t think you should label people with numbers.”
And finally: “Gilligan’s Island is what it is, and I am who I am.”