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How Ginger Grant Marooned Tina Louise On 'Gilligan's Island'

Culture | September 28, 2017

Tina Louise, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

She'll never be forgotten as Gilligan's Island's Ginger, but Tina Louise is a multi-talented performer who has been -- or, she herself might say, could have been -- so much more. When Louise took the part of Ginger, a sultry actress in the vein of Marilyn Monroe who is one of five castaways on the show, she worried she might be typecast as a sex symbol. She was right -- to this day, Tina Louise is remembered as Ginger Grant and, perhaps unfortunately, little else. The actress had begun her career on Broadway while in her teens, explored a career as a singer, and appeared in many other TV shows and movies, notably The Stepford Wives (1975).

Many who've tried their had at show business would say that Tina Louise's problem wasn't much of a problem at all -- after all, she played an iconic character on a much-loved TV show. Many actors and actresses work long and hard but never achieve that sort of success. But at the same time, Tina Louise was always bigger than Gilligan's Island in the culture -- she was known as a glamorous personality in a way her co-stars weren't. Yet she never played any other role that could dislodge her Ginger Grant persona from the public's consciousness.

Early Broadway Success

Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones and Tina Louise as Appassionata von Climax in the 1956 Broadway production of Lil' Abner. Source: Reddit

Tina Blacker was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934. Her father owned a candy store and was an accountant, while her mother was a fashion model. After her parents' divorce, her last name became Myers. She attended a posh high school, and noticed that all the other girls had middle names -- to fit in, she gave herself one: Louise.

Tina Louise made her Broadway debut wile in her teens, in a production of Lil' Abner (based on the Al Capp comic strip) that also included future star and sex symbol Julie Newmar.

A Fast-Rising Star

Tina Louise in 'God's Little Acre' (1958) and 'The Warrior Empress' (1960). Source: Flickr

Tina Louise was stunning, and seemed to have a great career ahead of her. She was billed as “Hollywood’s Fastest Rising Star” with Jayne Mansfield in Frederick’s Catalog back in 1958. She had another connection to Jayne Mansfield, as Jayne turned down the role as ‘Ginger Grant’ so Tina got the role instead. The same year she was also named “The World’s Most Beautiful Redhead”. Her Hollywood debut was in God’s Little Acre which was also in 1958, she received a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year. 

An Early Encounter With Gilligan

Before Gilligan's Island, Bob Denver (who played Gilligan) and Louise co-starred in a summer surf film, For Those Who Think Young. This teen beach movie also featured Nancy Sinatra and Ellen Burstyn. In 1964 she was in a hit Broadway musical called Fade Out--Fade In with Carol Burnett, which received a Tony nomination. She also had a role in The Real McCoys.

Then Ginger Grant Happened

Source: IMDB

Although she got the role of Ginger Grant in 1964, she was unhappy with the character and worried that she would be typecast as a sex symbol. It did make her a pop icon of that era, and in 2005 she was ranked second only to Heather Locklear as the greatest of TV's all-time sex symbols. After the series ended in 1967, she made guest appearances on TV series, soap operas and continued to make films. She declined to be a part of the three reunion TV films for Gilligan's Island with the rest of the cast, blaming the show for ruining her career as a dramatic actress.

Louise was married to radio and TV announcer/interviewer Les Crane from 1966 to 1974. They had one daughter, Caprice Crane (born in 1970), who became an MTV producer and a writer. Tina is also an accomplished writer of children’s books and is an advocate for improving child literacy. She donated a portion of the proceeds of her 2007 book, When I Grow Up, to literacy programs and has been volunteering at local public schools since 1996.

Tina Louise Was Also A Stepford Wife

Source: IMDB

Tina Louise was in the original 1975 version of The Stepford Wives playing one of the "perfect" robotic spouses of the men of Stepford, Connecticut. She also had a role in Brad Pitt’s first headlining film, directed by Tom DiCillo, called Johnny Suede, which also starred Samuel Jackson.

Tina Louise Has Accomplished A Lot

Source: Pinterest

Even if her greatest role -- Ginger Grant -- was also somewhat limiting, Tina Louise has had an enviable career, and is adored by her fans. The multi-talented actress has been in theater, European film, a jazz singer, writer, model, along with guest roles on hit series like Dallas and Kojak. She’s a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a lifetime member of the Actors Studio. She is quoted as saying, "The best movie you'll ever be in is your own life because that's what matters in the end.”

Tags: Gilligans Island | Ginger | Redheads | The 1970s | Tina Louise | TV In The 1970s | What Did She Do?...

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!