There are a handful of TV shows from the 1960s that still hold pop culture resonance all these decades, Gilligan’s Island being among them. Among the show’s principal players on the CBS series was Dawn Wells, who played the ‘girl next-door’-type character Mary Ann Summers. Sadly, word’s come in that Wells has passed away at the age of 82.
Born on October 18, 1938, Dawn Wells got her first taste of stardom when she was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and represented her state in the 1960 Miss America pageant, the same year she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in theater arts after initially studying chemistry. Following the pageant, Wells appeared on TV shows like The Roaring ‘20s, Maverick, Bonanza and The Joey Bishop Show, but once she was cast in Gilligan’s Island, that propelled her to TV star status.
On the off chance you’re not familiar with Gilligan’s Island, the series followed five passengers and two crewmen aboard a ship who were stranded on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific Coast. Hijinks ensued each week as they tried to escape their less-than-desirable circumstances, with the other main characters including Bob Denver’s Gilligan, Alan Hale’s Captain Jonas Grumby (a.k.a. The Skipper), Jim Backus’ Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer’s Lovey Wentworth-Howell and Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley.
Although Gilligan’s Island only ran for three seasons from 1964 to 1967, its popularity endured through syndication. Over a decade after the show’s cancellation, Dawn Wells reunited with most of the other cast members for three TV movie follow-ups: 1978’s Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, 1979’s The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island and 1981’s The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. She also participated in the 2001 TV docudrama Surviving Gilligan’s Island alongside Bob Denver and Russell Johnson.
Outside of the Gilligan’s Island sphere, Dawn Wells performed a lot on stage in the years after the show’s cancellation, especially in musical productions during the 1970s and 1980s. Her later TV credits included reprising Mary Ann in ALF and Baywatch, as well as Growing Pains, Roseanne and The Bold and the Beautiful. She also dabbled in the horror genre by appearing in the movies The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Return to Boggy Creek. Well’s final credit was voicing Gumbalina Toothington in an episode of Netflix’s The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants.
We here at CinemaBlend offer our condolences to Dawn Wells’ family and friends. If you were a fan of the actress, be it on Gilligan’s Island or elsewhere, feel free to share your fond memories of her in the comment section below.