Gilligan's Island actor Dawn Wells dies aged 82 from COVID-19

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·3-min read

Dawn Wells, best known for her role in 1960s TV series Gilligan's Island, has died aged 82 following complications related to COVID-19.

Wells’ publicist, Harlan Boll, said in a statement that the Hollywood icon passed away ‘peacefully’ at a living facility in Los Angeles on Wednesday (local time).

Actress Dawn Wells visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on September 30, 2019 in Universal City, California.
Gilligan's Island star Dawn Wells (pictured in 2019) has passed away aged 82 from COVID-19 complications. Photo: Getty Images.

Nevada-born Wells portrayed wholesome country girl Mary Ann Summers on the CBS sitcom from September 1964 to its conclusion in April 1967.

She also appeared in several follow-up TV movies including Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978) and The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island (1979) as well as lending her voice to two separate animated series in the 70s and 80s.

Outside of the world of Gilligan’s Island, Wells had guest roles on shows such as Columbo, Roseanne, Baywatch and ALF and performed in more than 60 theatrical productions.

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Dawn Wells portrays Mary Ann Summers in the CBS television program "Gilligan's Island." Image dated: July 15, 1965 Hollywood, CA
Wells (pictured in 1965) played wholesome country girl Mary Ann Summers on the CBS TV show Gilligan's Island. Photo: Getty Images.

Vale Dawn Wells

Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer took to Twitter to pay tribute to Wells, who he described as ‘lovely and gracious’.

“It was such a thrill for me to meet Dawn Wells when she came to see Two and a Half Men.

“She could not have been more lovely and gracious. I’m so grateful that I got to enjoy the work she loved doing.”

William Shatner of Star Trek fame tweeted: “Condolences to the family of Dawn Wells. Very sad.”

Gilligan’s Island was an unlikely success story. The goofy comedy failed to make waves during its initial three-season stint on air in the mid-60s and it was only after it was re-run that it became a huge cult favourite.

Portrait of the cast of 'Gilligan's Island,' 1964. Back row, from left, American actors Jim Backus (1913 - 1989) as Thurston Howell III, Natalie Schafer (1900 - 1991) as Mrs. Howell, Tina Louise as Ginger Grant, Alan Hale Jr. (1918 - 1990) as the Skipper, and Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers; front row, from left, Russell Johnson as the Professor and Bob Denver as Gilligan. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Wells (far right) with Tina Louise as Ginger (centre back) and the rest of the cast of Gilligan's Island in 1964. Photo: Getty Images.

Dawn Wells, who represented her state in the Miss America pageant in 1959, reportedly beat out 350 other actors to land the role of naive girl-next-door Mary Ann.

Her character acted as the perfect foil for co-star Tina Louise’s sexy film star, Ginger, and the Mary Ann vs. Ginger ‘issue’ divided viewers for decades after the show ended.

“There hasn’t been a Mary Ann on the air for I don’t know how long,” Wells said in a 2008 interview with the TV Academy Foundation.

“There hasn’t 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 would’ve 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 the values.”

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