Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on 'Gilligan's Island,' dies at 82
Dawn Wells, best known for playing eternal good girl Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan's Island, has died. She was 82.
Wells died Wednesday as a result of complications from COVID-19. Her publicist announced the news on his Facebook page.
The actress starred as the sunny Kansas farm girl Mary Ann on the CBS sitcom for its full 98-episode run from 1964-67. Her death leaves Tina Louise (Ginger, the movie star) as the only surviving cast member of the popular series.
Though best known for her role on the series, Wells also appeared on television in shows like 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, The Love Boat, and Roseanne. Her most notable work was on the small screen, but she did appear in a few films, including as a murder victim in the 1976 cult classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown, 1977's horror film Return to Boggy Creek, and 1975 Western Winterhawk.
Wells embraced her connection to Mary Ann and Gilligan's Island her entire life. She appeared as the character in numerous reunion specials, including cartoon spin-off Gilligan's Planet and three movies: Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. She also reprised the character on a 1992 episode of Baywatch and appeared on the original Roseanne alongside former castmates Bob Denver (Gilligan) and Tina Louise (Ginger) in a scene spoofing Gilligan's Island.
She also released a 1993 cookbook titled Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook with co-writers Ken Beck and Jim Clark, including a foreword by Denver who portrayed Gilligan. In 2014, she released What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, which she co-wrote with Steve Stinson, in celebration of the series' 50th anniversary.
"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 wrote in the book. "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. She was molded by me, from me."
Dawn Elberta Wells was born in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 18, 1938. Before pursuing her dreams in Hollywood, Wells was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and went on to represent her state in the 1960 Miss America pageant.
She made her Hollywood debut on ABC's The Roaring 20s and her film debut in The New Interns.
Wells had a robust career on stage, appearing in over six dozen theatrical productions and even starring in a one-woman show at Las Vegas' MGM Grand casino in 1985. She worked briefly as a journalist, hosting the Australian news show Midday.
She also became invested in philanthropy, founding Wishing Wells Collections, an organization that made clothing for people with limited mobility. Wells was also the founder of the nonprofit Idaho Film and Television Institute.
Most recently, Wells had worked frequently as a spokeswoman on the MeTV network, which airs Gilligan's Island episodes. She also appeared in the web series Life Interrupted and She's Still on That Freaking Island. Wells also voiced Gumbalina Toothington in the animated series The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants.
Wells married once, to talent agent Larry Rosen in 1962, but they divorced after five years. She is survived by her stepsister Weslee Wells.