2020 just couldn’t leave without taking one more blessed thing from us.
Dawn Wells, best known to the world as sunny Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday from complications of COVID-19. She was 82.
Wells, a former beauty queen, became an icon of Americana for her portrayal of the so-called “girl next door,” a farm girl marooned on an island with six other strangers. Mary Ann was sweet, kind, and just the person you’d want for a best friend, a girlfriend, or even a wife.
Wells, and the character, helped launch the pop culture litmus test, “Ginger or Mary Ann?”
“Gilligan’s Island” ran but three seasons but remains to this day in syndication and can now be seen on MeTV.
Post-“Gilligan,” Wells continued to act and appeared in such shows as “The Wild Wild West” and “High School U.S.A.” She was active for years in charities supporting animals and people with disabilities.
She wrote two books, “Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook” and “What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life.”
She also re-teamed with most of the original cast for one of the animated spinoffs and the three reunion movies, “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” (1978), “The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island” (1979), and “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” (1981).
Contrary to popular belief, the show did not make the stars rich. Wells, like the other performers, received next to nothing in residuals, and what little they did get ran out decades ago.
Because of the show’s enduring popularity, Wells cameoed on such shows as “Alf,” “Baywatch,” and “Roseanne,” the latter which told a “Gilligan’s Island”-style tale with that show’s cast as the castaways and the castaways in the roles of the Conners. As Darlene, Wells finally got to play a grump. See for yourself:
Tina Louise, now the only surviving cast member, paid tribute to Wells on Twitter: “I will always remember Dawn’s kindness to me. We shared in creating a cultural landmark that has continued to bring comfort and smiles to people during this difficult time. I hope that people will remember her the way that I do — always with a smile on her face.”