HOLLYWOOD — Sept. 25, 2019 — She was originally listed as “And the rest” in the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island. But it didn’t take long for Dawn Wells to leave her mark as Mary Ann Summers, the farm girl from Kansas who found herself stranded on an uncharted desert isle along with Gilligan, The Skipper, The Millionaire (and His Wife), The Movie Star, and The Professor on the beloved sitcom Gilligan’s Island (CBS, 1964-1967). Wells received more fan mail than any other cast member during the show’s original run. She continues to enjoy a following of more than 400,000 fans on her Facebook page, fan clubs, and social media platforms to this day.
The Hollywood Museum honored Dawn Wells this week by unveiling a new lobby exhibit featuring the original gingham dress and blue “short shorts” that Wells wore as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island, along with Bob Denver’s original costume as Gilligan, plus an array of scripts and other memorabilia commemorating the original Gilligan’s Island and its various reincarnations (including The New Adventures of Gilligan, one of two animated spinoffs produced by Filmation). The ceremony took place on Wednesday, Sept. 25, one night before the fifty-fifth anniversary of Gilligan’s premiere on CBS in 1964.
Now open to the public, the Gilligan’s Island exhibit is the latest addition to the Museum’s popular ongoing Lobby Series, which pays tribute to legendary individuals in entertainment and iconic TV series. One of the few TV shows that has never been off television since it premiered in 1964, Gilligan’s Island continues to entertain and reach new viewers today in more than thirty languages.
Donelle Dadigan, founder and president of The Hollywood Museum, hosted the evening, which included remarks from showbiz legend and Wells’ longtime friend Ruta Lee (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), co-founder of the charitable organization The Thalians; Steven Wishnoff, creator and director of Life Interrupted, the award-winning web series featuring Wells; Alison Arngrim (Little House on the Prairie) and Erin Murphy (Bewitched), two of Wells’ cast mates on Life Interrupted; and producer Lloyd Schwartz, son of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch creator and executive producer Sherwood Schwartz. A book signing followed in the Brownettes Only room of the Museum, where Wells signed copies of her book What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, which Bear Manor Media recently reissued to commemorate Gilligan’s fifty-fifth anniversary.
Lee shared an uproariously funny story about how she auditioned for the role of Ginger on Gilligan’s Island (and why she didn’t get the part). She also remembered Sherwood Schwartz as “a wonderful man in every way” who often “donated very generously” to The Thalians. “But I am also here because I love Mary Ann,” she added. “Dawn is the dearest, loveliest, most bubbly girl with a wildly wicked sense of humor. I am so proud of her for doing everything she has done and always contributing to the betterment of mankind in whatever ways she can.”
Wishnoff, Arngrim, and Murphy all shared anecdotes of their friendship with Wells, before and after Life Interrupted. Lloyd Schwartz spoke of how Wells shares several traits with the Mary Ann character, including graciousness and kindness: “Fans know that Dawn got five times the fan mail of any other member of the cast. And I think she answered most of it, too.”
Actor Dwayne Hickman (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) was unable to attend the evening, but he paid tribute to Bob Denver in a letter, which Dadigan read in his place. Recalling how he sat and read with Denver when the latter first auditioned for the role of Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie, Hickman wrote that “from the moment we started to read the scene, our rhythm and timing were perfect and, in an instant, a new comedy duo was born.” Hickman added how much Denver enjoyed his cast members on Gilligan, and that he “especially enjoyed his lifelong friendship with Dawn Wells.”
Wells closed the evening by expressing her gratitude “to the Schwartz family for bringing me to you in your living rooms.” She added, “I thank God for the writers of our show, and I want to say how much I appreciate all of you who care for the show, and for including me tonight.”
Other guests in attendance on Wednesday included Grammy Award-winning singer Anita Pointer (The Pointer Sisters), Billy Van Zandt (Yes, Dear, The Hughleys), Carolyn Hennesy (True Blood, General Hospital), France Nuyen (The Joy Luck Club), Geri Jewell (The Facts of Life, Deadwood), author and showbiz raconteur Geoffrey Mark (The Lucy Book, Ella: A Biography of the Legendary Ella Fitzgerald), Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains), comedienne Judy Tenuta, Kathy Garver (Family Affair), Lee Purcell (Valley Girl, Carol of the Bells), Rico E. Anderson (The Orville), Ro Brooks (The Haves and the Have Nots), singer Roslyn Kind, Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch), Caryn Richman (The New Gidget, A Very Brady Christmas), Teresa Ganzel (The Toy), Darby Hinton (Daniel Boone, Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws), Robert Hays (Angie, Airplane!), author and longtime Ida Lupino assistant Mary Anderson (Lupino directed several episodes of Gilligan), voice artist/announcer and showbiz historian Randy West (Johnny Olson: A Voice in Time), Bill Funt (son of Candid Camera creator Allen Funt), Herbie J Pilato (Then Again with Herbie J Pilato), and Hope Juber-Schwartz, daughter of Sherwood Schwartz.
TV Confidential will play highlights from the ceremony, as well as exclusive interviews with some of the evening’s guests, in October as part of a future edition of the program.
About The Hollywood Museum
The Hollywood Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that houses over 10,000 Authentic Show Business Treasures spotlighting more than 100 years of Hollywood history – from the Silents to Talkies, to Hollywood’s Golden Era, Film Noir, Television and its Pioneer Years, through the rebellious 60s, special effects 70s, evolving 80s, involved 90s, technological 2000s, and beyond to current day heartthrobs! The Hollywood Museum’s exhibits showcase the best in film, network and cable television, and new digital platforms featuring iconic and fan favorites! Located in the heart of Hollywood, at the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave – The Hollywood Museum in the historic Max Factor Building is the Official Museum of Hollywood and offers visitors the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world featuring the glamour of Hollywood legends and stars – past, present and in the making. The museum offers one-of-a-kind costumes, props, photographs, scripts, stars’ car collections, personal artifacts, posters, and memorabilia from favorite stars, films and TV shows. Just a few steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Museum has been named the #1 top tourist attraction in Hollywood by LA Weekly, and one of the Top 10 Museums in LA by the LA Tourism and Convention Board and Trip Advisor.
REGULAR HOURS: Wednesday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
TICKETS: $15 Adults: $12 Seniors (62+): $12 for students with ID and $5 Children under 5.
ADDRESS: 1660 N. Highland Ave. (at Hollywood Blvd.), Los Angeles, CA 90028
MUSEUM INFO: www.TheHollywoodMuseum.com or Tel: (323) 464-7776