See the castaways of Gilligan's Island in their earliest screen roles

Fittingly, Bob Denver got his start on a boat.

Just sit right back and you'll read a tale, a tale of a fateful… septet. The Gilligan's Island castaways got their start not in a tropic port, but in a variety of Hollywood productions in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. 

Before they were the Skipper, Mary Ann, Ginger and Professor, they were ruffians, frat brats and femme fatales. In a perfect bit of foreshadowing, Gilligan himself started out on the water, serving in the Navy.

Let's take a look back and find the cast of Gilligan's Island in their earliest roles.

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1. Dawn Wells


The Reno native represented Nevada in the 1960 Miss America pageant. A year later, she was landing small roles on television. Miss Nevada's first appearance came on 77 Sunset Strip in 1961, during a restaurant scene in "The Corsican Caper." The cast obviously clicked with Wells, as she appeared in three more episodes that year, playing different characters each time. Here you can also see her cavorting with Chad Everett and Edd Byrnes on the set of "The Rival Eye Caper."

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Bob Denver


How perfect was it in hindsight that Bob Denver made his screen debut playing a Navy man aboard a submarine? In 1957, the erstwhile mailman and math teacher turned up on The Silent Service, an anthology series about U.S. Navy submarines. He had a small role in "The Tang's Last Shot," in which he declared, "Smells like a shave in a glue factory!"

Image: NBC

3. Alan Hale, Jr.


Hale was no stranger to Hollywood — he grew up in showbiz. His father started acting in silent film way back in 1911. In 1933, as Hale Sr. was appearing in Destination Unknown, the young Hale Jr. worked his first movie gig in a gritty, provocative pre-Code flick called Wild Boys of the Road, a tale of Depression-era punks riding the rails and raising a ruckus. As credited on IMDb, that's him on the far left in this promotional shot.

Image: Warner Bros.

4. Natalie Schafer


Decades before she was dining on ice cream and swimming in the buff in her pool, Manhattan-raised Schafer was getting her start on Broadway and in quirky films. Her first credited screen role came in the 1941 comedic sci-fi movie The Body Disappears, about an invisible man. That's her pictured in the movie, looking like a millionaire from the get-go.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Jim Backus


Like his castaway wife Lovey, the man who played Thurston Howell III popped up out of nowhere ready to play his iconic character. He looked and sounded just like "the Millionaire" in his screen debut, in the 1949 romcom One Last Fling. He played an executive selling musical instruments, and he was introduced rattling on about "zithers" with that trademark well-to-do Yankee lockjaw accent.

Image: Warner Bros.

6. Russell Johnson


The Professor made his screen debut in a movie about a professor. Kismet! Of course, in 1952, Russell Johnson was not yet old enough to be a professor. No, in For Men Only, he played a bullying frat boy who butts heads with the university faculty after a hazing incident.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Tina Louise


The redheaded beauty got her start doing a little of everything — singing, acting, modeling. Her first acting gig came on the acclaimed dramatic anthology series Studio One in Hollywood (a.k.a. Westinghouse Studio One), in the 1956 episode "Johnny August." The following year, she proved her comedic chops on The Phil Silvers Show, seen here, playing "Gina" in a dream sequence in the episode "Bilko Goes South." That same year, she dropped her debut album, a platter of sultry torch songs called It's Time for Tina.

Image: The Everett Collection

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RobCertSDSCascap 54 months ago
The castaways found their way onto several movies featured on
Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Alan Hale Jr. in The Crawling Hand and The Giant Spider Invasion.
Russell Johnson in The Space Children.
Jim Backus in Angels' Revenge/Angels' Brigade.
BrittReid 57 months ago
Russell Johnson was in This Island Earth.
RobCertSDSCascap BrittReid 54 months ago
Also The Space Children.
stevil696 62 months ago
Jim Backus was amazing as the drunk pilot in it's a mad mad mad mad world still my fave movie
Delmo 62 months ago
Russell Johnson played a bad guy in a 1951 episode of "The Adventures of Superman" but the episode didn't air until '52/'53.
Martin 69 months ago
It wasn't his first, but Jim Backus playing James Dean's father in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is worth a mention.
RB Martin 60 months ago
And I enjoyed him as Patty Duke's father in "Billie."
hardrockinmofo 69 months ago
Dawn Wells. Always has been, still is, and always will be a classic American beauty!
Yes, and she has aged really well. Being short, brunette and painfully shy, I totally identified with Mary Ann. Tall, sultry, red-headed Gina was foreign to this 8-year-old girl.
Brownthunder 69 months ago
I like this site, it would be nice to get some new quizzes.
daDoctah 69 months ago
Nearly all the castaways appeared on 77 Sunset Strip at one point or another. The only ones who missed were Bob Denver and Tina Louise. Even the "eighth castaway", Charles Maxwell, appeared on a season two episode of the Strip, playing a character called "Kirkland" who, unlike his radio-announcer gig on Gilligan's Island, was actually seen onscreen.
dth1971 69 months ago
Jim Backus has even voiced Mr. Magoo in cartoons.
Greg 69 months ago
Boy I couldn't recognize the Skipper from that pic. Dawn Wells was and is a beauty.
jholton30062 69 months ago
Jim Backus was a pretty well-known movie and TV actor by the time "Gilligan's Island" came to TV, and of course was the voice of Mister Magoo.
MrsPhilHarris 69 months ago
The guy behind the girl looks more like the Skipper than the guy on the left.
SheriHeffner 69 months ago
I love Gilligan's Island and I missed the Studio One episode with Tina when it came on Decades Network. And I'll have to record 77 Sunset Strip to see dawn, bd WOW! Alan looked nothing like The Skipper when he was older. I guess I'll just have to catch the movies or television shows they were on by chance.
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