‘Gilligan’s Island’: Here’s Why the Flag in Opening Credits Is at Half-Mast

by Emily Morgan
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During the first season of the light-hearted “Gilligan’s Island,” the show included a somber reference to former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. 

In the show, there is a subtle reminder of this historical incident seen in the series. 

Producers scheduled the last day of shooting season one on November 23, 1963, in Honolulu Harbor for the scenes showing the S.S. Minnow embarking on its fateful three-hour tour. 

Late in the morning on November 22, a crew member from “Gilligan’s Island” ran to the set and announced that he’d just heard on the radio that someone had shot President John F. Kennedy.

Following the assassination, as Lyndon Johnson was being sworn in as President, the government announced that all military installations (including Honolulu Harbor) would be closed for the next two days for a period of mourning,

As a result, the producers had to stop filming, and the production crew delayed the shoot by several days. 

Producers shot the pilot episode during the same month of his fateful assassination, November 1963. On the final day of production in Hawaii, the cast and crew had no idea the news they and so many Americans were about to bear witness to. 

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Honors Late President In Subtle, Significant Way

Considering the magnitude of the moment, the production team decided to find a way to eternalize the tragic day. In the end, they decided to include the flag flying at half-mast in the opening scene. 

During the first season’s opening credits, as the Minnow pulls leaves the harbor, audiences can see the flag flying at half-mast as a way to honor Kennedy.

The following year, in 1964, the S.S. Minnow set out on its fateful trip as “Gilligan’s Island” premiered for millions of Americans.

Today, Gilligan, the Skipper, Mary Ann, Ginger, the Professor, and the Howells remain iconic fixtures in pop culture.

In the book, Gilligan’s Wake, film and television critic Tom Carson writes a backstory that the Skipper served with John F. Kennedy of the PT-109 and McHale on the sitcom, “McHale’s Navy.”

John F. Kennedy was also the Skipper for said boat, and in the backstory, Gilligan’s Island” would follow the 1961 pilot episode of “McHale’s Navy.”

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