Was there a feud between Dawn Wells and Tina Louise?
A 1967 interview sets the record straight, at least for the time being.
Feuds sell papers, and so Bob McKenzie, Oakland Tribune TV Writer, was probably looking for a big scoop when he interviewed Dawn Wells in February 1967. At the time of the interview, Gilligan's Island was still airing new episodes in the show's third and final season. While the show's legacy would continue to grow in re-runs, it was already a big pop culture deal. While the third season's ratings dipped compared to the two years prior, the show was still a big hit, with nearly a quarter of all television-owning households tuning in to see if Gilligan and gang would make it off that island.
Dawn Wells and Tina Louise were doubtlessly a large part of the show's success. Their presence appealed to a male demographic that otherwise may not have tuned in. Regardless, of the age or orientation of each viewer, Gilligan's Island kept audiences watching with its hilarious storylines and the actors' chemistry.
But a big question that kept recurring was, simply, ''Tina Louise or Dawn Wells?'' It seemed like everybody had a favorite, and so the press carried a feud narrative, whether real or fabricated.
Luckily, we can return to the primary source, as Dawn Wells was asked her opinions of her co-star in that Oakland Tribune article. While outlooks and connections change over decades under the public eye, we have proof of what Wells felt, at least in '67.
"Tina and I have gotten to be very good friends since she's gotten married. She is just head over heels in love with Les [Crane], and it has changed her so much. She's doing all the ordinary womanly things for the first time. It was a big thrill for her last year when she had her own Christmas tree for the first time.
"Tina has always lived like a movie star and has never learned how to cook. Of course, she wants to now. My mother and I are crazy about cooking, so a week before Thanksgiving we had Tina over and prepared a mock Thanksgiving dinner, so Tina could learn how to do it."
On December 30, 2020, Tina Louise memorialized Wells in the New York Post. In her touching tribute, the former Ginger Grant confirmed the anecdote, and the fond memories:
"I had just gotten married and it was Thanksgiving. I didn't know how to cook particularly. She invited me to her house with her mom," Louise said, sharing that Wells taught her how to make a potato soufflé. "It became something I did every year at Thanksgiving." Louise continued, "I never forgot that."