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Russell Johnson

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Russell Johnson
Johnson in Black Saddle (1960)
Russell David Johnson

(1924-11-10)November 10, 1924
DiedJanuary 16, 2014(2014-01-16) (aged 89)
Years active1950–1997
Known forGilligan's Island as Professor Roy Hinkley
This Island Earth
Rescue from Gilligan's Island
The Castaways on Gilligan's Island
The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island
  • Edith Cahoon
    (m. 1943; div. 1948)
  • (m. 1949; died 1980)
  • Constance Dane
    (m. 1982)

Russell David Johnson (November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014) was an American actor. He played Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan's Island and Marshal Gib Scott in Black Saddle.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Ashley, Pennsylvania, on November 10, 1924,[1][2] to Russell Kennedy Johnson (1901–1932) and Marion Wenonah Smink Johnson (1902–1976).

Johnson was the eldest of seven siblings: Kenneth Walter Johnson (1925–2012), David Reed Johnson (1926–1976), Lois Marion Johnson (1927–1928), Lorraine Johnson Crosby (1928-2015), Marion Joan Johnson Reeves (1930–2010), and Paul Wesley Johnson (1932–1933).[2] His father Russell died of lobar pneumonia and influenza on December 13, 1932, and his brother Paul also died of lobar pneumonia on January 5 the following year. His mother Minnie remarried after 10 years to Thomas S. Lewis.

As a teenager, Johnson attended Girard College, a private boarding school for fatherless boys, located in Philadelphia.[1]

Military career[edit]

After graduating from high school, Johnson enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet. On completing his training, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He flew 44 combat missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II as a bombardier in B-25 twin-engined medium bombers.[3]

On March 4, 1945, while flying as a navigator in a B-25 with the 100th Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force, Johnson's B-25 and two others were shot down during a low-level bombing and strafing run against Japanese military targets in the Philippine Islands. The B-25s encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire, and all three had to ditch in the sea off Zamboanga. Johnson broke both his ankles in the landing, and his bomber's co-pilot was killed. Johnson received a Purple Heart for his injuries. He was also awarded the Air Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one campaign star, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Johnson was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant on November 22, 1945, then joined the United States Air Force Reserve.[4]

Movie, television, and radio career[edit]

After his honorable discharge from the military, Johnson used the G.I. Bill to pay for his acting studies at the Actors' Lab in Hollywood.[5]

Johnson became a close friend of Audie Murphy and later appeared with him in three of his films, Column South and Tumbleweed in 1953 and Ride Clear of Diablo in 1954. Johnson's Hollywood career began in 1952, with the college fraternity hazing exposé For Men Only, and with Loan Shark, also released in 1952 and starring George Raft.

His early roles were primarily in Westerns such as Rancho Notorious (1952, starring Marlene Dietrich), Seminole (1953), Law and Order (1953, opposite Ronald Reagan), and Badman's Country (1958), and science fiction films such as It Came from Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956), and The Space Children (1958). He also appeared in a Ma and Pa Kettle vehicle, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki (1955), as well as in Roger Corman's rock-'n'-roll crime drama Rock All Night (1957). In 1955, he had a role in Many Rivers to Cross along with Alan Hale Jr., later the Skipper from Gilligan's Island. Johnson and Hale also appeared together in an episode of the TV series Casey Jones, Season 1 Episode 20 "The Track Walker".

During the 1950s, he played the head of a gang of crooks in episode 17 of season one of The Adventures of Superman (originally broadcast in January 1953, filmed in 1951). Johnson was also cast on the religion anthology series Crossroads.

In 1957 he played a ruthless and heartless murdering outlaw named "Stragger" on the TV Western Gunsmoke in the episode "Bloody Hands" (S2E21), where he almost convinces Matt Dillon to quit from guilt because of his own constant need to kill. He returned to that series in 1959 as “Harry Webb” in the episode “The Bear”. He also played the Sundown Kid in an episode of the 1958 NBC's Western series Jefferson Drum and guest-starred in another NBC Western series, The Californians. He appeared in episodes of Wagon Train,[6][7] "The Beauty Jamison Story" and "The Cliff Grundy Story."

He appeared four times on the first-run syndicated military drama The Silent Service, based on actual stories of the submarine section of the United States Navy. He was cast as Hugh Grafton in episode 28, "The Gar Story", as the executive officer Beach in the 1957 "Tirante Plays a Hunch", appeared twice as submarine officer and later author Edward L. Beach Jr., and as Tom Richards in two 1960 episodes, "Intermission" and "The Desperate Challenge", and twice with June Allyson on her CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Also, he guest-starred with William Shatner in "The Hungry Glass", a 1961 episode of Thriller, and with Joan Evans and Harvey Stephens in "The Sky Diver", the unaired pilot episode of Ripcord of that same year. Then he was cast as John T. Metcalf in the 1962 episode "Mile-Long Shot to Kill" of the CBS anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. Also, in 1962, he was cast as Bob Murkland in the 6 March Season 3, episode 22 of Laramie, 'The Dynamiters'. In April of that same year, he was cast as Doctor Ross in the episode "Allergies Anonymous" of The Real McCoys. Also that year he played a role in Tales of Wells Fargo. Then in 1963, he was cast in the episode "Mutiny at Fort Mercy" of the short-lived ABC/Warner Bros.' Western series The Dakotas, and later he performed in the premiere of another short-lived ABC show, Breaking Point, a medical drama series starring Paul Richards and Eduard Franz.

From January 1959 to May 1960, Johnson co-starred as Marshal Gib Scott on the television series Black Saddle, which lasted two seasons—its first on NBC and its second on ABC.

Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes[edit]

Johnson appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone. His character brings a murderer from 1880 into the present via a time machine in the season-one episode "Execution". In the season-two episode "Back There", his character, Peter Corrigan, attempts to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The plot of both episodes involved time travel from the 20th to the 19th centuries. Johnson also appeared on The Outer Limits in 1964, playing a crewmember on a United States space station in the episode "Specimen: Unknown".

"The Professor" on Gilligan's Island[edit]

Johnson was best known for playing Professor Roy Hinkley (usually called the "Professor"), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on the island. As Johnson himself pointed out, though, he could not fix the hole in the boat. In the first episode of the show, the radio announcer describes the Professor as a research scientist and well-known Scoutmaster. Gilligan's Island aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns continuously ever since. Johnson reprised this character in three Gilligan's Island made-for-television movies: Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979), and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981), and two animated series: The New Adventures of Gilligan from 1974-77 and Gilligan's Planet from 1982-83. In a 2004 interview, Johnson commented about the role and shared his perspective regarding Gilligan's Island and the situation comedy's place in television history:

It used to make me upset to be typecast as the Professor...But as the years have gone by, I've given in. I am the Professor, and that's the way it is...Besides, the show went into syndication and parents are happy to have their children watch the reruns. No one gets hurt. There are no murders, no car crashes. Just good, plain, silly fun. It's brought a lot of joy to people, and that's not a bad legacy.[8]

After Gilligan's Island[edit]

After Gilligan's Island, Johnson found himself somewhat typecast, making portraying more unsophisticated roles other than his signature role as the Professor more difficult. Nevertheless, he was able to resume a sufficient acting career,[8] appearing in several other movies and television shows, especially the latter. He appeared as a guest star in several dramatic series, including The Big Valley with Peter Breck (marking a reunion of sorts, since they co-starred together in Black Saddle, an earlier Four Star Productions series), The Invaders, Death Valley Days, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Lassie, That Girl, Ironside, The F.B.I, Mannix[9] and Gunsmoke. He was cast in the miniseries Vanished, based on a novel by Fletcher Knebel (1971), the TV horror movie The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973), uncredited in the Robert Redford spy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975), the low-budget thriller Hitch Hike to Hell (1977), and appeared on the episode "Coffee, Tea or Cyanide" on McMillan and Wife in 1977, and on the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara.

Johnson had a brief appearance in MacArthur (1977), in which he played United States Navy Admiral Ernest J. King, and he appeared in the 1978 made-for-television movies The Ghost of Flight 401 and The Bastard. Russell provided the narration for the animated-short episodes of The Adventures of Stevie and Zoya that appeared on MTV during the mid-1980s.

In an interview with Starlog magazine in the early 1980s, Johnson said that he had wanted to appear in the original Star Trek during its run on NBC from 1966 to 1969, but he was never cast. An episode of CBS' Newhart in 1986 featured the Beavers (a men's organization) watching a Gilligan's Island episode on television. When they are suddenly evicted from the room, one of them, portrayed by Johnson, protests, "I want to see how it ends!" He is assured that the castaways do not get off the island. Johnson also played the sheriff in several episodes of season 9 of Dallas. His character in that series did not return in season 10, however, as season 9 turned out to be the infamous "dream season". In the late 1980s horror TV series Monsters, Johnson played an elder scientist in the episode Sleeping Dragon, in which he tries communicating with an ancient humanoid dinosaur that was awakened after a 65 million years-long slumber. His other appearances included a reprisal of his Gilligan's Island character in episodes of ALF and Meego, as well as appearances in Knots Landing and Roseanne.

Johnson entertained fans at the 1996 MST3K Conventio-Con-Expo-Fest-a-Rama 2: Electric Boogaloo on the "Celebrity Panel". Johnson was invited for his role in the movie-within-a-movie of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, This Island Earth, but spent most of the time answering questions about his Gilligan's Island days. He shared an amusing anecdote:[citation needed]

I was at a speaking engagement for MIT ... and I said ... the Professor has all sorts of degrees, including one from this very institution! And that's why I can make a radio out of a coconut, and not fix a hole in a boat!

— Russell Johnson

Johnson once participated in the Ig Nobel award presentation ceremony, credited as "The Professor Emeritus of Gilligan's Island".

Johnson had a number of guest roles in the radio series The Adventures of Harry Nile, one of the "Imagination Theater" series produced by Jim French.

Personal life[edit]

Johnson was married three times. His first marriage, to Edith Cahoon in 1943, ended in divorce in 1948.[2]

In 1949 he married his second wife, Kay Cousins, whom he had met while at the Actors' Lab in Hollywood. Together they had a daughter, Kim, and a son, David. Cousins died on January 20, 1980, in Century City, California.

In 1982, Johnson married Constance "Connie" Dane, and became stepfather to her son, Courtney Dane.[10] It was here that Johnson collaborated with writer Steve Cox on the memoir, Here on Gilligan's Isle, published in 1993.[2][11]

Russell's son David Johnson died of AIDS-related complications on October 27, 1994.[12] After his son's diagnosis with AIDS, Johnson frequently helped raise money for AIDS charities.[13]


Johnson died from kidney failure at his home in Bainbridge Island, Washington, on January 16, 2014, aged 89.[14] His remains were cremated. Johnson's memorial service was held a month later.[15]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 For Men Only Ky Walker
1952 Rancho Notorious Chuck-a-Luck Wheel Spinner Uncredited
1952 Loan Shark Charlie Thompson
1952 Back at the Front Johnny Redondo - Smuggler
1952 The Turning Point Herman Uncredited
1953 Seminole Lieutenant Hamilton
1953 Law and Order Jimmy Johnson
1953 Column South Corporal Biddle
1953 It Came from Outer Space George
1953 The Stand at Apache River Greiner
1953 Tumbleweed Lam Blanden
1954 Ride Clear of Diablo Jed Ringer
1954 Taza, Son of Cochise Narrator Voice, Uncredited
1954 Demetrius and the Gladiators Gladiator Uncredited
1954 Johnny Dark Emory
1954 Rogue Cop Patrolman Carland Uncredited
1954 Black Tuesday Howard Sloane
1955 Many Rivers to Cross Banks Cherne
1955 Strange Lady in Town Shadduck
1955 Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki Eddie Nelson
1955 This Island Earth Dr. Steve Carlson
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Turk Season 2 Episode 29: "Vicious Circle"
1957 Gunsmoke "Bloody Hands" Joe Stanger
1957 Attack of the Crab Monsters Hank Chapman
1957 Rock All Night Jigger
1957 Courage of Black Beauty Ben Farraday
1958 Steve Canyon Maj. Pitch Hammer Season 1/Episode 4: "Project Heartbeat"
1958 The Space Children Joe Gamble
1958 Badman's Country Sundance
1958 The Saga of Hemp Brown Hook
1960 The Twilight Zone Professor Manion Execution - Season 1 Episode 26
1964 A Distant Trumpet Captain Brinker - Judge Advocate's office
1964 Invitation to a Gunfighter John Medford Uncredited
1964-67 Gilligan's Island The Professor 1964-67 TV Series
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Scribe
1967 ‘’The Invaders’’ Mr. Bernard / The Defense Attorney / Alien Invader The Trial - Season 2 Episode 6
1969 Cry for Poor Wally Gaines
1969 Gunsmoke Diggs The Long Night (1969 episode)
1970 That Girl Jon (the pilot)
1974 The Man from Independence Linaver
1975 Three Days of the Condor Intelligence Officer at Briefing Uncredited
1977 Hitch Hike to Hell Captain J.W. Shaw
1977 MacArthur Admiral King
1978 Wonder Woman Colonel Disco Devil (1978 Episode)
1980 The Great Skycopter Rescue Professor Benson
1982 Kill Squad Voice, uncredited
1983 Off the Wall Mr. Whitby
1986 Dōwa Meita Senshi Windaria Alan 1987 English version; voice, uncredited
1986 MacGyver Oslow Ugly Duckling (1986 episode)
1988 Blue Movies Mr. Martin


  1. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (2014-01-16). "Russell Johnson, the Professor On 'Gilligan's Island', Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  2. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Adam (2014-01-16). "Russell Johnson, actor who played the Professor on 'Gilligan's Island,' dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  3. ^ "Russell Johnson, Professor on Gilligan's Island, and WWII Hero Passes at 89". Guardian Of Valor. 2014-01-16. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  4. ^ "Russell David Johnson". Together We Served. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  5. ^ Weber, Bruce (January 17, 2014), "Russell Johnson, 89, of 'Gilligan's Island' dies on Bainbridge", The Seattle Times
  6. ^ ""Wagon Train" the Beauty Jamison Story (TV Episode 1958) - IMDb". IMDb.
  7. ^ The Beauty Jamison Story
  8. ^ a b Kashatus, William C. "Ashley native Russell Johnson rose to fame on Gilligan's Island". The Citizens' Voice. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
  9. ^ "Mannix". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2024-05-16.
  10. ^ Lowe, Lindsay (2014-01-16). "Gilligan's Island Actor Russell Johnson, 'The Professor', Dies at 89". Parade. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  11. ^ Thomas, Bob; et al. (2016-03-25). "Russell Johnson Obituary". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  12. ^ "Dave Johnson, 39; L.A.'s First AIDS Coordinator, Writer on Gay Issues". Los Angeles Times. 1994-10-29. Archived from the original on 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  13. ^ Chappell, Bill (2019-01-19). "Gilligan's 'The Professor' Has Died; Russell Johnson Was 89". NPR. Retrieved 2019-07-12.
  14. ^ Messer, Lesley (January 16, 2014). "Gilligan's Island Star Russell Johnson Dies of Kidney Failure". ABC News. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Memorial service announced for Russell Johnson, the Professor". Bainbridge Island Review. 2014-01-31. Retrieved November 11, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Russell and Cox, Steve. Here on Gilligan's Isle. New York: Perennial, 1993.

External links[edit]