FILE - In this June 8, 2008 file photo, actress Dawn Wells arrives at the TV Land Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. Wells, who played the wholesome Mary Ann among a misfit band of shipwrecked castaways on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, of causes related to COVID-19, her publicist said.(AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

FILE - In this June 8, 2008 file photo, actress Dawn Wells arrives at the TV Land Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. Wells, who played the wholesome Mary Ann among a misfit band of shipwrecked castaways on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, of causes related to COVID-19, her publicist said.(AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

‘Gilligan’s Island’ star Dawn Wells dies, COVID-19 cited

Tina Louise, 86, who played Ginger the movie star is the last surviving member of the cast

Dawn Wells, who played the wholesome Mary Ann among a misfit band of shipwrecked castaways on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday of causes related to COVID-19, her publicist said. She was 82.

Wells died peacefully at a residential facility in Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll said. “There is so much more to Dawn Wells” than the “Gilligan’s Island” character that brought her fame, Boll said in a statement.

Besides TV, film and stage acting credits, her other real-life roles included teacher, motivational speaker and conservationist, Boll said.

Tina Louise, 86, who played Ginger the movie star, is the last surviving member of a cast that included Bob Denver as the title character; Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as wealthy passengers Thurston and Lovey Howell, and Russell Johnson, known as the Professor.

“Oh, this so sad. Bon voyage, Mary Ann,” Jane Lynch posted on Twitter.

“Two and a Half Men” star Jon Cryer tweeted that it was a “thrill” to meet Wells when she visited the show, adding, “She could not have been more lovely and gracious.”

Wells, a native of Reno, Nevada, represented her state in the 1959 Miss America pageant and quickly pivoted to an acting career. Her early TV roles were on shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick” and “Bonanza.”

Then came “Gilligan’s Island,” a goofy, good-natured comedy that aired from 1964-67 that became an unlikely but indelible part of popular culture. Wells’ comely but innocent Mary Ann complemented Louise’s worldly Ginger, and both became innocuous ’60s TV versions of sex symbols.

Wells’ wardrobe included a gingham dress and shorts that modestly covered her belly button, with both costumes on display in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Museum.

TV movies spinoffs from the series followed, including 1978’s “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island,” but Wells also moved on to other TV guest roles and films including the 2002 vacuum cleaner salesman comedy “Super Sucker” with Jeff Daniels. She starred on stage in dozens of plays, including “Chapter Two” and “The Odd Couple.”

In 2013, she was honoured by for her work with a Tennessee-based refuge, The Elephant Sanctuary.

To mark the 50th anniversary of “Gilligan’s Island.” Dawn wrote “A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?” with observations about her character and the cultural changes that took place while she was stranded.

Two years ago, a friend launched a GoFundMe drive to help cover medical and other costs for Wells, although she protested she didn’t need the assistance. She did end up acknowledging her need and accepted more than $180,000 in donations.

“Wow! I am amazed at the kindness and affection I have received” in response to the fundraising drive, Wells said in a social media post at the time. She said a “dear friend” undertook it after a frank conversation.

She recounted musing to him, “’Where did the time go? 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.’”

Wells added in the post that she was grateful to her supportive fans and that her outlook remained positive.

Dawn is survived by her stepsister, Weslee Wells, Boll said.

Lynn Elber, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Revelstoke Women's Shelter Society has released an educational video about unhealthy relationships. (Contributed)
Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society educates on healthy relationships with new video

April 11-17 is Prevention of Violence Against Women Week

A 46-year-old man from Armstrong died in Revelstoke hospital after being injured in the Lumby area. (File photo)
Armstrong snowmobiler dies in Revelstoke hospital

46-year-old man injured in Tsuius Mountain area of Monashees around Lumby area

Guy Barber in front of his jewellery store at 208 Mackenzie Avenue, circa 1915. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 272)
Glimspes of Revelstoke’s past for April 8

Local history as recorded by the newspaper of the time

Downtown Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
LETTER: Finding Common Ground Through COVID-19

‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’

Alchemy Studio received a ticked from the RCMP on Thursday, April 8, for staying open despite provincial restrictions ordering yoga studios be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
Suspicion of ‘fake news media’ makes rally uncomfortable for Salmon Arm event photographer

More than 300 people counted at city park for ‘Rally For Food Security’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

The former Summerland Asset Development Initiative building on Prairie Valley Road in Summerland was suggested as the site for a temporary transitional housing facility for the community. However, Summerland council has rejected this proposal. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland council rejects transitional housing facility

Concerns raised about short timeline and condition of municipally-owned building

Shayla, an 8-pound black and grey Havanese, was stolen from outside a store on Banks Road on Saturday. (Contributed)
Stolen pup located, Kelowna RCMP confirms

Mounties said on April 12 that Shayla, the 8-pound, black and grey Havanese dog, has been located safe and sound

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Penticton Vees continue their winning streak carrying a 5-0 win title as of Sunday night's hockey action. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees continue winning streak

Sunday night’s 6-1 win has them with five in a row since the start of the season

Most Read