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Blast From the Past

"Remembering the past prepares us for the future"

The Love of Gilligan’s Island

The Love of Gilligan’s Island

Skip Ford

If you ever lived in the era of Gilligan’s Island, it has to bring back memories and thoughts of how one would live if deserted on an island out in the vast ocean. Who can forget the famous lines?

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man, the Skipper brave and sure, five passengers set sail that day, for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.”

Who has not thought about such a situation? I always said I would never want to be found if left with about five female mates that I had to look after. However, Gilligan’s Island gave you seven people that at times you could develop a love-hate situation with at any given time. Just look at Gilligan (Bob Denver) who was about as stupid as a box of rocks but in the end, pulled everything together usually without even knowing it. Although never revealed Gilligan’s first name was Willie. If he succeeded in allowing to be rescued and not screwing it up, we must be truthful in the fact the show would have concluded. So, we can thank him for being the screwup he was as he unknowingly messed up almost every chance they had to be rescued. Let us say it was close to a hundred times he blew their chances. No being trapped on an island with two beautiful women would be part of my ideal desertion but in Gilligan’s plan because of who Gilligan is sort of makes it a fantasy to think Gilligan would ever get lucky. No, if the times were of the present as culture would have its sex would have been the main plot point but because of the era it was produced sex was far from one’s thought, and being rescued was the main plot point. I sort of like the old era films for that reason as even though we thought it we never revealed it. Much is removed from the thought and more is revealed in film today. Whatever happened to our imagination? We all know that three years on a deserted island someone is doing it, but it’s left to one's thinking.

Many adored the millionaire Thurston Howell (Jim Backus) and his wife Eunice Lovell Wentworth Howell (Natalie Schafer) however, I could not stand them. They made me think of those that are so rich that they can get what they want even deserted on an island even though their worth was never revealed. I just could not bear the voice of his wife who reminded me of my aunt who was about as fake as a three-dollar bill. However, they added the missing piece of that love-hate relationship we have with characters that if we did not have it the show would be boring. We have it on television as well as the movies as we cling to the hero. And hope the villain gets defeated. Let us not forget the voice of Mr. Magoo for which Jim Backus was also famous.

It was the same way with Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) the movie star who played it like Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield and doing it quite well. Also, there was Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) which I adored Mary Ann as she was a simple girl and the type of girl you wanted to go on a date with. The farm girl you wanted to sneak up to the hayloft with. She appealed to the viewer who loved the simpler things in life. However, you then had Ginger who still wanted to be the Scarlett actress and every hair had to be in place and god forbid she get dirt under her nails. She appealed to the city slickers who admired a high fashion dinner plate and all the fixings.

The professor is known as Professor Roy Hinkley but more commonly just the Professor was played by Russell Johnson. In the pilot, he was played by John Gabriel but because he looked so young it did not fit well with all the degrees the Professor was supposed to have. Another interesting fact about the pilot was that it aired November 22, 1963, the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. The Professor was the more logical one and we always looked forward to seeing what ingenious thing or way he was going to create in each episode. And yes, that would be 89 episodes in all over a period of three seasons in the late sixties over CBS. Believe it or not three films were made which were The castaways on Gilligan’s Island, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, and the Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. None of the films featured Tina Louise as there were contract disagreements. Syndication spread well into the seventies and eighties. A fourth film was made but released much later called Surviving Gilligan’s Island.

And then there was the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) who tried to fit everyone and everything together to keep one big happy deserted family while trying to protect his first mate’s stupidity and absentminded actions at bay. An interesting fact was that the Skipper's real character’s name was Jonah Grumby but it was never used except in the pilot.

It was Producer Sherwood Schwartz who took a question” What would you take with you on a deserted island?” and turn it into a small acting crew of seven and try to answer that question as it is revealed in each episode just what they took with them. Little is known about the true life of Gilligan’s Island as in the beginning the show was canceled as the CBS executive William S Paley wife did not like Ginger and Mary Ann and preferred watching Gunsmoke. Also, many questioned the viewing of Mary Ann’s naval as she wore some scant clothes for the era such as daisy dukes’ shorts and crop tops. Most networks at the time would not show any naval. Boy, we have come a long way! To fix this Wells would sew on extra material to hide her naval. Schwartz also took a cheap shot at the FCC which was headed by Newton Minnow who professed television was “a vast wasteland” as he named the broken boat after Newton and called it the USS Minnow.

The film was true in a sense as it was filmed on an island however it lies just off the island of Oahu in Hawaii and was so close that you could swim to it from the mainland.

What I found most enjoyable was the ending of the show as they never did get rescued and allowed fate to rest in the minds of the viewer. This is one case where not knowing what finally happened worked and became an enjoyable ending.