‘Gilligan’s Island’ star dies of Covid compilations at 82 – Deadline

Dawn Wells, best known for playing the Girl Next Door Mary Ann in the iconic CBS comedy series Gilligan Island, died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles from complications due to Covid-19. She was 82 years old.

Wells, who was Miss Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant, beat 350 actresses for the role of Mary Ann Summers. She has also appeared in over 150 series and several films during her career as well as on Broadway.

Wells’ naive country character Gilligan Island was juxtaposed with that of Tina Louise’s Ginger, a sultry movie star. The rather stereotypical dueling characters have fueled a debate that continues among fans today: Mary Ann or Ginger. They and three other passengers (Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer and Russell Johnson) embarked for a “three hour tour” aboard the USS Minnow, commanded by the skipper (Alan Hale) and his first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver) . But the weather started to get tough, and the seven became castaways – albeit with clean clothes every week.

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“There hasn’t been a Mary Ann on the air for I don’t know how long,” she told the TV Academy Foundation during a 2008 shoot for the video series “The Interviews “. “There hasn’t been a good girl over 14, and Mary Ann really was. The Mary Ann-Ginger problem is still there. You had to be a real man to understand Ginger, and Mary Ann would have gone to the ball with you and be your best friend. A lot of guys would come to me and tell me that I had married a Mary Ann. She had the values.

Despite its longevity in syndication, Gilligan Island was only moderate success for CBS during its first three-year series from 1964 to 1967, which aired at a different time and night each season. It premiered on Saturdays in September 1964 after The Jackie Gleason Show and finished tied for 18th overall in the three-network final season odds.

It actually lost ground in Season 2, which airs on Thursdays between The Munsters and My three sons and ranking 22nd on the prime-time charts for 1965-1966. Its final season aired at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

But when its reruns hit the airwaves of local stations, Gilligan Island went on to become one of the biggest syndication hits of the late 60s and 70s, spawning daytime animated series on ABC from 1974 to 1977 and another called Planet Gilligan on CBS from 1982 to 1984. Wells reprized her role as Mary Ann for both, as well as three reunion films in the late ’70s and early’ 80s.

Wells is survived by his half-sister, Weslee Wells. No service is planned at this time.


Patrick Hipes contributed to this report.

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