Actress Who Beat Raquel Welch for Role of Mary Ann Has Died

Dawn Wells of 'Gilligan's Island' fame was 82
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2020 2:34 PM CST
COVID Claims Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island
This Oct. 2, 1978 file photo shows the cast from left, Russell Johnson, as the professor; Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III; Natalie Schafer, as Mrs. Howell III; Alan Hale Jr., as the skipper; Bob Denver, as Gilligan; Judith Baldwin replacing Tina Louise, as Ginger, and Dawn Wells, as Mary Ann.   (AP Photo/Wally Fong, File)

(Newser) – 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. Born in Reno, Nevada, Wells represented her state in the 1959 Miss America pageant and quickly pivoted to an acting career. Her early TV roles came on shows including 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and Bonanza. Then came Gilligan's Island, a goofy, good-natured show that became an unlikely but indelible part of popular culture. Fox News reports Wells was picked from 350 actresses—Raquel Welch among them—for the role.

Though the show ran for just three seasons, it has been on the air continuously since 1964. Wells died peacefully at a living 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, per the AP. Besides TV, film, and stage acting credits, her other real-life roles included teacher and motivational speaker, Boll said. Variety gives her later acting roles as ones in Growing Pains, The Bold and the Beautiful, Baywatch, and the Epic Tales of Captain Underpants series, in which she voiced Gumbalina Toothington. The New York Post reports that with Wells' death there is just one surviving cast member: 86-year-old Tina Louise, who played Ginger.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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