LOS ANGELES (AP) – Dawn Wells, who played the healthy Mary Ann among a group of castaways on the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday of the aftermath of COVID-19, her publicist said. She was 82 years old.
Wells died peacefully in a Los Angeles gated community, said publicist Harlan Boll. “Dawn Wells has so much more to offer” than the Gilligan’s Island character who made her famous, Boll said in a statement.
In addition to TV, film, and stage actors, her other real-life roles included teachers and motivational speakers, Boll said.
Tina Louise, 86, who played movie star Ginger, is the last surviving member of a cast that included Bob Denver as the title character. Alan Hale Jr. as skipper; Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as wealthy passengers Thurston and Lovey Howell and Russell Johnson, known as professor.
Wells, a native of Reno, Nevada, represented her state at Miss America in 1959 and quickly switched to an acting career. Her early television roles were in shows such as “77 Sunset Strip”, “Maverick” and “Bonanza”.
Then came Gilligan’s Island, a goofy, good-natured comedy that aired from 1964 to 1967 and became an unlikely but indelible part of popular culture. Wells ‘pretty but innocent Mary Ann complemented Louise’s worldly ginger and both became harmless TV versions of sex symbols from the’ 60s.
Wells’ closet contained a plaid dress and shorts that modestly covered her belly button. Both costumes were exhibited in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Museum.
TV film spin-offs from the series followed, including “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” in 1978, but Wells also switched to other TV guest roles and films, including the 2002 vacuum cleaner comedy “Super Sucker,” starring Jeff Daniels. She starred on stage in dozens of plays including “Chapter Two” and “The Odd Couple”.
Two years ago, a friend started a GoFundMe campaign to cover Wells medical and other expenses, despite protesting that she didn’t need the help. In the end, she acknowledged her need and accepted donations of more than $ 180,000.
Dawn is survived by her stepsister Weslee Wells.