Dawn Wells

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Dawn Wells
Dawn Wells Gilligan's Island 1964.jpg
Wells as Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island in 1964
Dawn Elberta Wells

(1938-10-18) October 18, 1938 (age 81)
Years active1961–present
Larry Rosen
(m. 1962; div. 1967)

Dawn Elberta Wells (born October 18, 1938) is a beauty queen and an American actress who became known for her role as Mary Ann Summers on the CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series.

Early life[edit]

Wells was born in Reno, Nevada, where she attended Reno High School.[1] She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in chemistry. She transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design. She was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.[1]


In 1959, Wells was crowned Miss Nevada and represented her state in the Miss America 1960 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[2][3]

In Hollywood, Wells made her debut on ABC's The Roaring 20s and the movie The New Interns and was cast in episodes of such television series as The Joey Bishop Show, 77 Sunset Strip, The Cheyenne Show, Maverick, and Bonanza, before she took the role of Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island. She reprised her character in the various Gilligan's Island reunion specials, including the reunion cartoon spin-off Gilligan's Planet and three reunion movies: Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.

She also appeared as a guest star on Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, 87th Precinct, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, Ripcord, The Everglades, The Detectives, It's a Man's World, Channing, Laramie, Burke's Law, The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, The F.B.I., Vega$, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Matt Houston, ALF, Herman's Head, Three Sisters, Pastor Greg, and Roseanne.

Wells 1975 press release

Wells had small roles in the early 1960s films Palm Springs Weekend and The New Interns, and later starred with Michael Dante in the independent 1975 film Winterhawk, playing a Western settler kidnapped by an Indian chief. Her other films include The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Return to Boggy Creek, Lover's Knot, Soulmates, Forever for Now, and Super Sucker. In fall 2011, she began filming Silent But Deadly (originally titled Hotel Arthritis),[4] a comedy horror film released in 2012.

Following Gilligan's Island, Wells embarked on a theater career, appearing in nearly one hundred theatrical productions as of July 2009. She spent the majority of the 1970s, and 1980s, touring in musical theater productions. She also had a one-woman show at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1985.

In 1993, Wells published Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook with co-writers Ken Beck and Jim Clark, including a foreword by Bob Denver. She was close to Alan Hale Jr., who played The Skipper in Gilligan's Island, even after the series completed its run, and he contributed a family recipe ("Kansas Chicken and Dumplings") to her cookbook. Hale's character was the inspiration behind such concoctions as Skipper's Coconut Pie, Skipper's Navy Bean Soup, and Skipper's Goodbye Ribeye, and he is depicted as Skipper Jonas Grumby in numerous photographs throughout the book. She said in a 2014 interview with GoErie.com, "Alan could not have been kinder to a young actress. He was a real peach."[5]

In 2005, Wells consigned her original gingham blouse and shorts ensemble for sale from her signature role. Beverly Hills auction house Profiles in History sold it for $20,700.[2] In 2008, she joined Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz in Los Angeles for the celebration of Schwartz's entry into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She appeared on the "Celebrity Holiday Bash" episode of Food Network's Chopped, which first aired December 1, 2013.

In 2014, Wells released What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, which she co-wrote with Steve Stinson. The book was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gilligan's Island.[6]

Gilligan's Island co-star Russell Johnson died on January 16, 2014, leaving Wells and Tina Louise as the only surviving cast members of the sitcom.

In May 2016, Wells was named Marketing Ambassador to MeTV Network.[7] In January 2019, she promoted the Gilligan's Island television series on the MeTV television network.


In 2005, TV Guide ranked Wells No. 50 on its "50 Sexiest Stars of All Time" list.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Wells married Larry Rosen, a talent agent, in 1962. The couple had no children and were divorced in 1967.[1]

In 2018, a GoFundMe page was set up to help Wells cope with financial trouble.[9][10]

Humanitarian work[edit]

Wells in 2015

For several years, Wells operated a business, Wishing Wells Collections, making clothing for people with limited mobility.[11] She is the founder of the Idaho Film and Television Institute, a not-for-profit (501c3) educational organization with "a vision of education, technical training and economic development in Southeastern Idaho."[12] She organized SpudFest, a regional annual family movie festival,[12] and has been a spokeswoman for Idaho Potatoes.[13]


Wells continues to lend her support to the Denver Foundation, a West Virginia charity chaired by Dreama Denver, widow of Wells' Gilligan’s Island co-star Bob Denver. In November 2009, she appeared at the Denver Foundation's Christmas Wish Celebrity Auction, helping to raise funds for the disabled and disadvantaged in West Virginia.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Pilato, Herbie (2014). Glamour, Gidgets, and the Girl Next Door: Television's Iconic Women from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 147. ISBN 1589799704.
  2. ^ a b Potempa, Phillip. "From the Farm: Leftover turkey perfect for 'Gilligan's Island' casserole". nwi.com. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  3. ^ Goldberg, Delen (January 12, 2012). "10 past Nevada pageant winners who have gained notoriety". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  4. ^ "Silent But Deadly: Film Review". HollywoodReporter.com. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  5. ^ "Kevin Cuneo: Mary Ann's still a sweetheart". GoErie.com - Erie, PA. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  6. ^ "The world according to Dawn Wells, a.k.a. 'Gilligan Island's' Mary Ann". Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  7. ^ "Dawn Wells joins MeTV as 'marketing ambassador'". www.robertfeder.com. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  8. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. pp. 202. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  9. ^ Dugan, Christina (September 7, 2018). "Gilligan's Island Star Dawn Wells 'Embarrassed' but 'Flattered' After GoFundMe Raises $130K". MSN.com. Archived from the original on September 8, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  10. ^ Nolasco, Stephanie (September 7, 2018). "'Gilligan's Island' star Dawn Wells says she is 'grateful' for 'friends and fans who care' while suffering financially". Fox News. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  11. ^ Wells, Dawn (2006). "Wishing Wells Collections". dawn-wells.com. Archived from the original on September 19, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
  12. ^ a b "Idaho Film and Television Institute". idahofilminstitute.org. Archived from the original on April 6, 2006. Retrieved July 24, 2010.
  13. ^ "Peeling Idaho Potatoes". idahopotato.com. Idaho Potato Commission. 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
  14. ^ "Bob Denver website". bobdenver.com. Archived from the original on September 13, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2010.

External links[edit]