5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Gilligan's Island,' According To Mary Ann

06/26/2015 09:32 am ET | Updated Jun 26, 2015
Gilligan's Island

Premiering in 1964, "Gilligan's Island" had to deal with quite a few more rules than contemporary sitcoms. "There were a lot of restrictions," Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summers in "Gilligan's Island," told The Huffington Post. "Sherwood [the show creator] would talk about having to come to the set to make sure that the cleavage wasn't showing more than 2 seconds, 3 seconds," she said, referring to her character's wardrobe. As outlandish as that now sounds, without the show's characters pushing restraints, "Gilligan's" wouldn't have had quite the same impact on modern television.

Here are a few things you may have never known about Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann -- straight from Mary Ann herself.

1. Despite being two of the major characters stranded on the island, Mary Ann and the professor were initially considered extras and omitted from the opening.

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In the first season's credits, both Russell Johnson (who played the professor) and Wells were only referred to as "the rest." According to Wells, the two of them joined after the pilot had aired. Pre-existing contractual agreements barred an easy renegotiation of the credits.

But after the first season, Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, remedied this. "Gilligan insisted that there were seven people on the island and took it to the producer and they changed the credits," Wells told HuffPost.

Afterwards, it became a joke. Wells and Johnson embraced the first season title and "always sent each other cards [that said] 'Love, and the rest,'" said Wells.

2. The lagoon was actually filmed next to a busy highway. This constantly forced scenes to be redone when trucks would drive by.

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The CBS Studios backlot, where the lagoon from "Gilligan's Island" was filmed, was adjacent to the Hollywood Freeway. This caused quite a few problems when production tried to capture the actors' voices without additional traffic noise.

"I think the soundmen had kind of a hard time with it," said Wells. "I don't know how you would filter that out while we were speaking."

This distraction apparently delayed filming the show. "We had to stop several times because you'd hear trucks go by," Wells added.

Image: "Gilligan's Island"

3. There was a secret plan to add an animated dinosaur to the cast.

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The creator of "Gilligan's Island," Sherwood Schwartz, recalled in his book, Inside Gilligan's Island, a meeting he had with CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg Jr., who had what could have been a history-altering idea. Rather than Fonzie's 1977 jumping of the shark, we could have had Gilligan's dinosaur.

Stromberg pitched a plot to Schwartz where Gilligan finds a dinosaur and then tames it to keep as a pet. "Just picture it!" Schwartz recalled Stromberg saying. "Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It's our answer to 'Mr. Ed.'"

This idea never made it to the actors, since Schwartz hated the plan and due to budget constraints.

"Boy, I'm sure glad they didn't go through with that one," Wells told HuffPost.

Image: "Gilligan's Planet"

4. Mary Ann got an enormous amount of fan mail from men, many of whom proposed.

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When interviewed by The Vancouver Sun, Wells was asked if the rumor was true that she received 3,000 to 5,000 fan letters a week when she played Mary Ann. Wells said it wasn't quite that many, but certainly more than the rare message in a bottle someone on a stranded island would typically receive.

Wells told HuffPost that those letters did get weird at times. "I'd say some of the fans stretched their imagination quite a bit. It's a very interesting thing with men, because they follow you," she said. One fan recently wrote to remind her that it was their anniversary -- meaning he'd been writing her for 35 years.

"I get proposed to all the time," Wells added.

Image: "Gilligan's Island"

5. Bob Denver almost died on the set when a lion lunged at him. His immediate reaction was to do something comical.

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This was a moment that Wells remembered "very well," since she actually was filming it with an 8mm camera for her own personal home movies.

In the last shot of the day one Friday night, Gilligan was supposed to be stuck in the Howell's hut, piling furniture at the door to keep a lion out, all while the lion was already inside the hut with him. "Even the trainer had claw marks all over him," Wells remembered.

When it came time for Gilligan to notice the lion standing on a pair of twin beds for the scene and try to scurry away, the lion lunged at him in an apparent attempt to become king of the island. As Wells told HuffPost, Denver's immediate reaction was to "karate chop" at the lion.

As the lion lunged, the twin beds split apart and the trainer tackled the lion mid-air. As Denver once recalled, "my hair stood on end."

Image: "Gilligan's Island"

BONUS: Gilligan's full name was ...

gilligans island

Speculation into whether Gilligan had a full name never completely ceased since the show premiered. In the pilot, the character was briefly named Willy Gilligan, but as the show changed dramatically since then, it isn't considered canon. Denver himself felt that the character should only be called Gilligan.

"I really don't think it was Willy Gilligan," Wells told HuffPost. "Everybody says there was no other name."

Wells said that Schwartz gave Gilligan only one name on purpose. He also made the characters wear the same clothes for that same purpose. "[Schwartz] was a genius at comedy, that's why everybody was in the same clothes," Wells said. "Charlie Chaplin always wore the same thing. You identify immediately. I think the one word, Gilligan, was very on purpose. I don't think a last name was necessary at all."

Image: "Gilligan's Island"

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