"Gilligan's Island" turns 50
Hard as it may be to believe, a half-century has passed since Gilligan, the Skipper and their five passengers aboard the S.S. Minnow first went on the longest three-hour tour in history.
"Gilligan's Island" set sail on Sept. 26, 1964, and aired for 98 episodes over the course of three seasons on CBS.
While it had a limited run, the series still airs in syndication in many parts of the world. Providing an escape from the daily problems in the lives of viewers, "Gilligan's Island" is still one of the most-watched TV shows in the world, currently shown in over 30 languages.
Sit right back and you'll hear a tale about a series that's left a lasting legacy.
The goofy yet loveable center of the show, Gilligan is the reason the castaways were stuck on the island in the first place, after causing their ship, the SS Minnow, to crash on the uncharted island.
A first name for the character, who was almost always seen in his trademark red shirt and white sailor's hat, was never given in any of the show's 98 episodes or three spinoff films.
Bob Denver, the actor who played Gilligan, later revealed in multiple interviews that series creator Sherwood Schwartz had planned to use "Willy" as Gilligan's first name if the situation ever arose.
Denver was probably best known to TV audiences prior to "Gilligan's Island" as Maynard G. Krebs on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" from 1959-1963.
The actor got along well with most of his "Gilligan's Island" co-stars, having stuck up for cast members Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson so that their characters could be featured in the show's opening theme for season 2 (they were referred to as "and the rest" in the season 1 credits).
Denver would often appear at various "Gilligan's Island" fan events in later years.
He died in 2005 at age 70 after battling cancer.
The Skipper served as the de facto leader of the castaways, as well as the perfect foil for his first mate, Gilligan, with whom he shared a love-hate relationship.
Producers had considered casting future "All in the Family" star Carroll O'Connor in the role before Alan Hale Jr. took on the part.
Alan Hale Jr.
Legend has it that the role was given to Hale after Schwartz heard the actor's hearty laugh while they were once seated near each other at a restaurant.
Like many of the "Gilligan's Island" cast members, Hale embraced his connection to the series in his later years.
"The Skipper has become my alter ego," Hale said of the character in 1988. "I'm one and the same now."
Hale died in 1990 at the age of 68 after battling cancer.
All the money in the world couldn't save millionaire Thurston Howell III and his wife from being stranded on the island with the others.
Luckily for them though, Howell and his wife brought lots of cash and clothing on the three-hour boat tour (for some unexplained reason) and never seemed to be without comfort or possessions during their time as castaways.
Backus provided the voice of the classic cartoon character Mr. Magoo and used some of the same inflections from that role when playing Howell.
The actor died in 1989 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
And His Wife
Lovey Howell was devoted to her husband and, along with movie star Ginger, added an air of sophistication to the island.
Schaffer's co-stars have said that she accepted the role only because she wanted a free trip to Hawaii (where the pilot episode was shot) and she never imagined that the series would make it past the first episode, much less become a pop culture phenomenon for generations to come.
The actress died at age 90 in 1990 in her Beverly Hills, California, home.
The Movie Star
Ginger Grant was a Marilyn Monroe-type who often bonded with Mary-Ann as well as the Howells.
Jayne Mansfield was originally offered the role but turned it down.
Unlike the other cast members, Louise has publicly spoken out over the years about her unhappiness with being on the series.
Louise claims that the show ruined her acting career and left her forever known as "Ginger."
Louise was the only cast member who did not appear in the show's three spinoff films or animated series. Several other actresses filled in for Louise as Ginger.
Following the death of Russell Johnson in 2014, the 80-year-old Louise and co-star Dawn Wells are now the only surviving cast members from the series, although the two actresses have both publicly stated that they do not get along in real life.
The brilliant Professor often came up with clever inventions and devices on the island, yet he never figured out a way how to build a raft or simply patch up the hole in the Minnow.
Johnson had made several appearances on "The Twilight Zone" prior to his turn on "Gilligan's Island."
He was also starring in several films at the time and was not particularly interested in joining a network TV series when he was cast in the Professor role, although he would later come to embrace the series for decades after the show's brief initial three-year run from 1964-1967.
Johnson died in January 2014 from kidney failure. He was 89.
Sweet and wholesome Mary-Ann was the complete opposite of the seductive Ginger.
Raquel Welch initially auditioned for the part.
Wells had originally dreamed of becoming a ballerina in her youth, but she insted turned to acting following a knee injury.
The 75-year-old actress recently penned a book, titled "What Would Mary-Ann Do?" in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the series.