Russell Johnson from Gilligan's Island wasn't ''psychologically equipped'' for Hollywood

The Professor couldn't deal with fame.

It takes a particular kind of person to be under constant public scrutiny. Celebrity has its benefits, but it also invites a lot of unwanted attention. While some deftly navigate the heights of stardom, many do not have the toolset for such a lifestyle.

One example of a star out of his depths is Russell Johnson. While his name may not be immediately recognizable, Johnson was famous in his day as Professor Roy Hinkley on Gilligan's Island. As The Professor, Johnson was the island's voice of reason. The other castaways were often presented as cartoonishly one-note, but The Professor grounded the comedy in something like real life. 

Despite his later successes, Johnson had a humble upbringing in Ashley, Pennsylvania. His father died when Russell was only eight years old. After attending Girard College, a Philadelphia boarding school for poor, fatherless boys, Russell Johnson enlisted in the United States Air Force as an aviation cadet. Following his honorable discharge, Johnson used the G.I. Bill to pay for acting classes in Los Angeles. 

Throughout the 1950s, Russell Johnson steadily built an impressive résumé, amassing tons of credits in both film and television. While he was featured in dozens of productions, none of them reached the levels of fame he'd have thrust upon him on Gilligan's Island.

His profile grew substantially after that disastrous "three-hour tour," and he only became more famous as the sitcom reran in syndication Russell Johnson was suddenly very recognizable to the public, but his background kept him humble. In 1966, he spoke with the Buffalo News about the phenomenon.

"I come from a large family, the oldest of six children and I took on a lot of that responsibility when I was young. I spent 10 years in an orphanage after my father died.

"Actually, I'm not psychologically equipped to be an actor. I don't like people looking at me. So I avoid public appearances and publicity. I wish I were better at such things." 

While at first, the above quote may seem like false modesty, the sentiment is reflected in the way Johnson's career played out. In the wake of Gilligan's Island, there was no great attempt to capture more fame. Johnson worked in a handful of movies, and a few more TV shows, but mostly stayed out of the limelight.

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12 Comments

Wolfie 16 days ago
Probably the most healthy decision for him, because I couldn't imagine Russell Johnson surviving in today's TMZ News Society (celebrities have no privacy now) ....
LalaLucy 20 days ago
Interesting. He always seemed the more private type of a fellow. Always liked his acting. He added a lot to Gilligan's Island and was really good on a couple of Twilight Zones.
colosoloyolo 20 days ago
Russell Johnson is a WW2 hero. He flew 44 combat missions in the Pacific theatre including the Battle of Midway for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. On his 44th mission during a hazardous low-level bombing run, he was shot down over the Philippines breaking both ankles when hitting the water. Russell was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his heroics.

Acting on Gilligan's Island was his 2nd best accomplishment.
I should add that he was a bombardier during the war.
BrittReid colosoloyolo 19 days ago
And the third was This Island Earth.
daDoctah 20 days ago
Do you reckon he'd've been more or less happy about being identified with his Gilligan role if they hadn't gone through that whole "and the rest" business?
BarneyFluffer 20 days ago
The Professor retired on Bainbridge Island, 30 minutes West of Seattle up to his death. RIP
Runeshaper 20 days ago
Solid actor. Sad to read that his dad passed when he was so young, but I bet he was proud of him (-:
justjeff 20 days ago
Talk about being a fish out of water...
McGillahooala 20 days ago
It seems that most normal people try to stay away from Hollywood as much as they can.
harlow1313 21 days ago
His background is interesting. I like to think that some celebrities shy away from their fame by recognizing how silly it all is.

Johnson plays a sinister part I quite enjoy on an episode of "The Big Valley," and it pleases me to see him in the B-movie classic, "Attack of the Crab Monsters."
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