Much-loved US actress Dawn Wells, best known as ‘Mary Ann’ on Gilligan’s Island has died, aged 82.
She died on Wednesday of causes related to COVID-19 in Los Angeles.
Wells played Kansas girl-next-door ‘Mary Ann Summers’ for just 3 seasons from 1964 – 1966, but the show by Sherwood Schwartz become such a pop culture hit it has lived on in syndication ever since.
She reprised the role for 3 telemovies from 1978 – 1981 and produced a behind the scenes special in 2001.
“Every character on Gilligan’s Island was given a broad ‘stock’ comedy role to fill — captain, mate, wealthy man, wealthy wife, professor, movie star — except me,” Wells once wrote. “She was given a name and location — Kansas farm girl. I had to fill in the blanks. So, from the get-go, the Mary Ann character was different. She wasn’t a Hollywood creation.
“I know this because the core of Mary Ann is really me. I mean, I built her from scratch … if you play a character long enough on stage or screen, I think your true self shows through.”
Wells had represented the state of Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant and appeared on several TV series before being cast in Gilligan’s Island.
Her other credits included 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Bonanza, The Joey Bishop Show, Hawaiian Eye, The Wild Wild West, ALF, Growing Pains, The Bold and the Beautiful, Baywatch and Roseanne.
There was also an Australian link, having been a “castaway correspondent” for Ray Martin-hosted Midday, interviewing celebrities like Eddie Murphy, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.
She also had a long career on stage, and undertook charity work on women, children and animals.
In August 2018, Wells took a fall and revealed that she was having difficulty paying for the two months of hospital rehabilitation that she needed. She said she was flabbergasted when people raised $197,000 for her in a month after a friend created a GoFundMe page.
“I am amazed at the kindness and affection I have received,” she told FOX News. “I don’t know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids and no money.”
Tina Louise (Ginger), now the last remaining cast member of Gilligan’s Island, said in a statement, “I was sad to learn of Dawn’s passing, I will always remember her kindness to me. We shared in creating a cultural landmark that has continued to bring comfort and smiles to people during this difficult time. I hope that people will remember her the way that I do – always with a smile on her face.”