10 Things You Didn't Know About 'Gilligan's Island'
As anyone who's ever been on a three-hour boat ride can tell you, it gets pretty insufferable by the end. People are hungry, cranky and seasick, and all of them are trying like heck to avoid using the on-board bathroom.
That makes it all the more impressive that we, as viewers, managed to stomach an entire three seasons of "Gilligan's Island" (and to a lesser extent, its three made-for-TV movies). Ever since it premiered 50 years ago on September 26, 1964, we just couldn't get enough of those seven castaways, and that's despite our overwhelming frustration at their refusal to just build a darn boat already.
Then again, it's probably better they didn't get off that island. Otherwise, we'd never have all the fun little "Gilligan's Island" trivia tidbits below, each of which proves to be more interesting than a chartered boat tour, or that same boat's deplorable bathroom facilities.
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#1. During the show's development, CBS chief of programming Jim Aubrey wasn't convinced that viewers would want to see the same seven castaways on the same deserted island week after week. When "Gilligan's Island" creator Sherwood Schwartz brushed off Aubrey's suggestions to change the show's premise and name (to "Gilligan's Travels"), Aubrey created his own series called "The Baileys of Balboa" (about a Southern California skipper and his offbeat crew) to compete and run concurrently with Schwartz's program. "Baileys" debuted just two nights before "Gilligan's Island," but was canceled within the year.
#2. Actress Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Howell, thought "Gilligan's Island" was too dumb to get picked up by a network, and only decided to star in the pilot episode because it offered her a free trip to Hawaii and a quick paycheck. As one story goes, she actually began to cry when CBS greenlit the show.
#3. After the pilot was ordered to series, television producer Hunt Stromberg Jr. tried to convince a horrified Sherwood Schwartz that Gilligan should find a gigantic dinosaur halfway through the first episode and keep it as a pet for the remainder of the show. Not wanting to offend Stromberg (who envisioned this dinosaur as a "Mister Ed"-type character), Schwartz simply questioned whether an animated dinosaur would break their budget. Fortunately, he turned out to be right, and the idea was scrapped.
#4. According to the television special "Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three Hour Tour in History," it was Bob Denver who was responsible for getting "the Professor and Mary Ann" mentioned in the opening credits and theme song. (Prior to the second season, only Gilligan, the Skipper, Ginger, and Mr. and Mrs. Howell were mentioned by name; the Professor and Mary Ann were simply referred to as "the rest.") As the story goes, Denver had a clause in his contract stipulating how he could be credited, and threatened to remove his name from the opening credits unless Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells got their just due.
#5. Also, at about 22 seconds into the opening credits of first-season episodes of "Gilligan's Island," the U.S. Flag can be seen flying at half-staff off in the distance. This is because the show's pilot episode finished filming on November 22, 1963 — the same day President Kennedy was assassinated.
#6. Alan Hale Jr. was filming a Western in Utah (most likely "Advance to the Rear" or "Bullet for a Badman") when he was contacted to read for the role of the Skipper, but the producers of the film didn't authorize him to leave. So instead, on the morning of his audition, Hale rode one of the film's horses to the nearest main road, hitchhiked to a Las Vegas airport, and hopped a flight to Los Angeles with the intention of returning to Utah before anyone noticed.
#7. A few months into the show's run, the U.S. Coast Guard asked to meet with Sherwood Schwartz about mail they received regarding "Gilligan's Island." Apparently, more than a few viewers believed the show to be real, and asked the Coast Guard why they couldn't simply rescue the castaways. “Now who did [these viewers] think was laughing at what was happening to these people?” Schwartz later joked in a 1997 interview with the Archive of American Television. “Where did they think the music came from, and the commercials?”
#8. Tina Louise, who studied under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio prior to the show, was the only castmember to decline numerous offers to reprise her role in the "Gilligan's Island" TV movies or animated series. "She simply has a fear that if she ever identifies herself with Ginger again, she will lose all chance to play other types of roles, dramatic or comic," wrote Schwartz in his 1988 book "Inside Gilligan's Island: From Creation to Syndication." However, Louise wasn't exactly ashamed of the show: When it debuted, she proudly touted that the convicts in the Kansas State penitentiary voted her "Miss Cellmate," and almost 20 years later, she appeared with the rest of the cast in a 1982 reunion on "Good Morning America":
#9. When asked why Mary Ann often gets picked over Ginger in fans' "Mary Ann or Ginger" debates, actress Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) suggested it was because "Ginger is a one-night stand while Mary Ann is for a lifetime." She further remarked that "Ginger would be exciting, but you’d have to take her to expensive places and buy her a martini [whereas] Mary Ann’s for the long haul."
#10. All of the castaways' full names have been revealed except for Gilligan's. Evidence suggests he was called "Willy Gilligan" when Sherwood Shwartz was putting together the original treatment for the pilot, yet this name was never uttered in any of the show's dialogue. In fact, viewers still debate whether Gilligan was his given name or last name. Even Bob Denver himself used to insist that Gilligan was indeed his character's first name whenever the subject was brought up.