No, she’s not dead. But over at Neatorama, actor Eddie Deezen wrote a delightful tribute to Dawn Wells who from 1964 to 1967 famously played Mary Ann, one of seven stranded castaways there on Gilligan’s Island. Of course during the first season of the show, she (and the professor) weren’t even named in the theme song, having been unfairly lumped in under "and the rest." But for the many young people who didn’t dig the movie star, Mary Ann was the down-to-earth object of their affection. From Neatorama:
In 1964, Dawn auditioned for a new show on the CBS schedule called Gilligan’s Island. She met with the show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz, where the two chatted about the character she was up for- Mary Ann Summers, a farm girl from Kansas (based on Judy Garland’s "Dorothy" character in The Wizard of Oz.) Before officially testing for the role, her agent/husband Larry called and asked how Sherwood liked her. He was told, "She’s too smart to play Mary Ann," to which he replied, "She can play dumb."
When Dawn heard of this conversation, she quickly disagreed. "Mary Ann’s not dumb," she declared, "She’s not very experienced, she’s kind of naive, but she’s not dumb." It was as if she already fully understood the character she was to make immortal, before she even had the role.
Trivia: Another young, beautiful actress named Raquel Welch was also up for for the Mary Ann role….
And here’s Wells on a couple of her castmates:
Jim Backus (Mr. Howell): "He was cheap… cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap." Dawn recalled how she, Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Howell, would go out to lunch together every day, and each day, at the end of their meal, Backus would claim "I forgot my wallet," forcing Natalie to pick up his tab. At the end of the year’s filming, Natalie went over to Backus and presented him with a bill for $340 to cover his "freebies."
Russell Johnson (the Professor): "He had the best sense of humor. He was the funniest and he was a hunk." She added about her special friend: "He was a very handsome, good man. I miss him.… If [during the show’s run] either of us had been single or both of us had been single, there would have been some chemistry."