Gilligan’s Island is a TV show that just about everyone has heard of with an opening tune that gets stuck in your head every time you think of it. Although the program only lasted three seasons from 1964 to 1967, it lived on in reruns and welcomed new generations of fans.
Following the death of Dawn Wells in 2020, many wondered if any of the show’s cast members are still alive. Here’s the answer to that, plus a few things you probably didn’t know about the actors who played the castaways, so now “just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale.”
Bob Denver played the character the show was named for. Gilligan was the first mate on the boat that became shipwrecked, stranding not only him but also his skipper and five sight-seeing passengers on an island far away from home. Denver worked on other projects over the years and even became a radio personality but he was best known for portraying the title character on Gilligan’s Island.
Denver died on Sept. 2, 2005, from pneumonia at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina after complications related to throat cancer treatment. He was 70.
Alan Hale Jr. played the Skipper on the hit sitcom. He was born on March 8, 1921, in Los Angeles. His father was actor Rufus Edward MacKahan, who used the stage name Alan Hale Sr. His mother, Gretchen Hartman, was also in the business and worked as mostly a silent film actor. Hale Jr.’s own career spanned over the course of four decades and after Gilligan’s Island, he guest starred on several shows including The New Gidget, ALF, and The Love Boat.
Hale was married twice and has four children. On Jan. 2, 1990, he died of thymus cancer. He was 68. Hale was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Jim Backus was born on Feb. 25, 1913, in Cleveland, Ohio
Backus began his acting career in the 1940s and continued to work in entertainment after Gilligan’s Island. He even had his own show titled Hot Off the Wire, which lasted one season. However, he is best known for his role as millionaire Thurston Howell III who became stranded with his wife and the others on the fictional island.
Backus suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died on July 3, 1989, from complications of pneumonia. He was 76.
Natalie Schafer played the millionaire’s wife, Mrs. Lovey Howell. She was born on Nov. 5, 1900, in Red Bank, New Jersey, and raised in Manhattan.
Schafer worked on Broadway, mostly in supporting roles, before moving to LA in 1940 to pursue a career in television and movies. She was featured in several movies and shows over the years but her most notable role was as Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island.
On April 10, 1991, Schafer died of liver cancer. She was 90. Like her co-star Hale, she was also cremated and her ashes were sprinkled in the Pacific Ocean.
Actor Russell Johnson was born on Nov. 10, 1924, in Ashley, Pennsylvania. He starred in a number of Westerns and Sci-Fi classics. He was also known for his role as Marshal Gib Scott in Black Saddle and as Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island.
Johnson was married three times and had three children. His son, David, died of AIDS-related complications in 1994. Johnson died twenty years later on Jan. 16. 2014, of kidney failure. He was 89.
On Dec. 30, 2020, news broke that Wells had died at a residential facility in LA from complications related to COVID-19. She was 82.
Wells, who played a wholesome farm girl from Kansas named Mary Ann, was born on Oct. 18, 1938, in Reno, Nevada. Prior to taking on the iconic TV role, Wells was crowned Miss Nevada and represented her state in the 1960 Miss America pageant.
Following her iconic part as Mary Ann, Wells made headlines for running into some financial trouble. In 2018, one of her friends started a GoFundMe for her to help pay off Wells’ debts of “taxes, medical [expenses], and [other] bills.”
Tina Louise, who played a movie star named Ginger Grant, is the only one of the show’s cast members still alive today.
Louise was born on Feb. 11, 1934, in New York City. She performed on Broadway and was featured in a number of films before landing the role on the comedy. As the New York Post noted, Louise refused to appear in revivals and reboots of the classic show including the TV movie Rescue from Gilligan’s Island in 1978 and Surviving Gilligan’s Island in 2001. She also chose not to speak much about the series after it ended but did share her thoughts on Wells’ death.
“I’m very sad,” Louise said. “Dawn was a very wonderful person. I want people to remember her as someone who always had a smile on her face. Nothing is more important than family and she was family. She will always be remembered.”
Today, Louise resides on Manhattan’s East Side.