Dawn Wells, best known for playing the girl-next-door castaway Mary Ann on the 1960s CBS comedy series Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles of complications due to Covid-19. She was 82.
Wells, who was Miss Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant, beat out 350 actresses for the role of Mary Ann Summers. She also appeared in more 150 series and several movies during her career as well as on Broadway.
Wells’ naive country character on Gilligan’s Island was juxtaposed with that of Tina Louise’s Ginger, a sultry movie star. The rather-stereotyped dueling characters fueled a debate that continues among fans today: Mary Ann or Ginger. They and three other passengers (Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer and Russell Johnson) set sail on a “three-hour tour” on the USS Minnow, captained by the Skipper (Alan Hale) with his First Mate Gilligan (Bob Denver). But the weather started getting rough, and the seven became castaways — albeit with clean clothes every week. With Wells’ passing, Tina Louise is the only cast member who is still alive.