2020-12-30 20:12:13 UTC
Dawn Wells Dies Of Covid-19: Mary Ann On Gilligans Island Was 82
Dawn Wells, best known for playing the girl-next-door castaway Mary Ann on the
iconic CBS comedy series Gilligans Island, died Wednesday morning in Los
Angeles of complications due to Covid-19. She was 82.
Wells, who was Miss Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant, beat out 350
actresses for the role of Mary Ann Summers. She also appeared in more 150 series
and several movies during her career as well as on Broadway.
Wells naive country character on Gilligans Island was juxtaposed with that of
Tina Louises Ginger, a sultry movie star. The rather-stereotyped dueling
characters fueled a debate that continues among fans today: Mary Ann or Ginger.
They and three other passengers (Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer and Russell
Johnson) set sail on a three-hour tour on the USS Minnow, captained by the
Skipper (Alan Hale) with his First Mate Gilligan (Bob Denver). But the weather
started getting rough, and the seven became castaways albeit with clean
clothes every week.
There hasnt been a Mary Ann on the air for I dont know how long, she told
the TV Academy Foundation in a 2008 sit-down for The Interviews video series.
There hasnt been a good girl over 14, and Mary Ann was very much that. The
Mary Ann-Ginger issue is always there. You had to be a real man to understand
Ginger, and Mary Ann wouldve gone to the prom with you and been your best
friend. A lot of guys would come up to me and say I married a Mary Ann. She had
Despite its longevity in syndication, Gilligans Island was only a moderate hit
for CBS during its initial three-year run from 1964-67, airing on a different
night and time each season. It premiered on Saturdays in September 1964
following The Jackie Gleason Show and finished tied for 18th in the
three-network final season ratings.
It actually lost ground in Season 2, airing on Thursdays between The Munsters
and My Three Sons and ranking 22nd in primetime ratings for 1965-66. Its final
season aired at 7:30 p.m. Mondays.
But when its reruns hit local-station airwaves, Gilligans Island became one of
the biggest syndication hits of the late-60 and 1970s, spawning animated
daytime series on ABC from 1974-77 and another called Gilligans Planet on CBS
from 1982-84. Wells reprised her Mary Ann role for both, along with three
reunion movies in the late-70s and early 80s.
Born on October 18, 1938, in Reno, NV, Wells began guesting on such popular
drama and Western series as Bonanza, Maverick, Cheyenne, 77 Sunset Strip and
Wagon Train in the early 1960s. She continued to work consistently in more than
a dozen guest roles before scoring the Mary Ann role. She appeared in a handful
of smaller movies in the mid-70s before doing the Gilligans Island toon series
and movies, then went on to guest on such hits as Columbo, Roseanne, Baywatch,
ALF and others.
She continued to work sporadically in TV through the 2010s.
In addition to acting, Wells was a producer, author, journalist, motivational
speaker, teacher and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation, focusing on
women and children in Northern Nevada. She also ran her Film Actors Boot Camp
for seven years in Idaho.
Wells is survived by her stepsister, Weslee Wells. No services are scheduled at