Dawn Wells as Mary Ann
LOS ANGELES - JULY 21: Gilligan's Island cast member Dawn Wells (as Mary Ann Summers), prepares for episode: 'Two on a Raft.' Image dated July 21, 1964. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
It's hard to believe that it has been over 50 years since Dawn Wells appeared in the last original episode of Gilligan’s Island. Wells portrayed Mary Ann Summers on the, then popular, show about 7 unlucky castaways. As the story went, the S.S. Minnow was a tour boat that capsized in an unexpected storm. What happened next would be a tale of their survival on the uncharted island where they ended up.
Each cast member had their backstory. Of course, the Skipper and Gillian where the captain and first mate of the Minnow and the passengers included, Mr. and Mrs. Howell who were millionaires, the professor, Ginger and Mary Ann. For some reason, I always wondered about the relationship dynamics of this group. There they were marooned on an island and it would appear that they had left their carnal desires behind when they left civilization.
The Howells were married so they had each other. That left 5 other people consisting of 3 men and 2 women; somewhat of a pairing off dilemma. The men played up to Ginger for obvious reasons. She was a beautiful actress who had legs all the way up to her backside. Then there was sweet, innocent Mary Ann. They could not have been more opposite.
Mary Ann was a spunky little farm girl from Kansas. Unlike Ginger, she was a down to earth, resourceful, practical and definitely pulled her weight on the island. She was known for her tight tops and short shorts. She unassumingly pranced around the island looking cute. Although it was a fictional story, it amazed me that basic human instincts didn’t come into play more often.
As far as romantic compatibility went, Ginger was in a league of her own. Mary Ann supposedly had a fiancé waiting for her back home but week after week, I waited for her to pair up with one of the 3 eligible bachelors on the island. Each of 3 was smitten in their own way but no relationships ever materialized. The bachelors remained perfect gentlemen.
The fact that Mary Ann was never romantically involved with anyone on the island must have been a huge relief to many of her viewers. Like many stars do, Wells reported receiving thousands of fan letters, weekly, from (mostly) men; including countless marriage proposals. Some wrote her regularly and at least one wrote to remind her that it was the 35th anniversary of his writing letters.
Despite the fact that the show capitalized on Wells’ good looks and curvy figure, producers were very careful not to show too much for too long. Back in the 1960s, her signature outfit was considered very provocative for television. Even a little cleavage was a big no-no. Eventually, Mary Ann’s original outfit, the red gingham blouse and shorts, was sold by a Beverly Hills auction house for a whopping $20,700.00.
At times, Mary Ann seemed to be overshadowed by Ginger. Make no mistake though, Dawn Wells is a very accomplished actress and has many successes to her credit although she is probably best remembered for her role on Gilligan’s Island. Wells beat out both Raquel Welch and Pat Priest for her role on the show; pretty impressive.
The last original episode of Gilligan’s Island aired way back in 1967. Although the show is not current by today’s standards, Mary Ann is one of those characters that will live on in the memories of many.
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