Gilligan’s Island: Why Weren’t Mary Ann and the Professor in the Opening Theme Song?

Gilligan's IslandOne of the most frequently asked questions about Gilligan’s Island is “Why were The Professor and Mary Ann referred to as ‘the rest’ in the show’s opening? There were only seven castaways!”

In season one, Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, and Tina Louise were in the opening theme but Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells weren’t. Why?

Well, you may not be aware that some of the characters in the series weren’t quite the same in the original pilot. Ginger was a practical redheaded secretary, played by Kit Smythe. Nancy McCarthy played Bunny (not Mary Ann) and she was a stereotypical dumb blonde secretary. John Gabriel played the very serious Professor.

In order to get the series greenlighted by CBS, creator Sherwood Schwartz had to do some reworking and recasting. As a result, we ended up with the cast and characters we know today.

Of the three new performers, Tina Louise was the first to sign. She was in a Broadway play and they had to buy out the rest of her contract to sign her for Gilligan’s Island. Wells once recalled that Louise’s contract stipulated her billing, that she be the last person in the opening credits. Wells and Johnson signed on later so they were put in the end credits.

For season two, when the TV show was filmed in color, the opening credits were changed and the Professor and Mary Ann took their place behind Ginger. What brought on the change? It turns out that even Wells never knew the real reason, until this 1995 Today Show interview. Take a look and watch her reaction.

If you didn’t get the gist of the story in that clip, Denver later recounted that his contract stipulated he could choose his billing. He asked that Wells and Johnson be moved up with the rest of the cast. The network refused so he told them he wanted last billing, in the end credits only. Since he played the title character and that would look very strange, they had no choice but to redo the theme. It’s not clear but they either found a way to work around Louise’s contract stipulation or she agreed to the change.

What do you think? Are there any of today’s performers that you think would do what Denver did?

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6 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. H. T. says

    I love Gilligans Island. I whatch it almost every day, if I ever met one of the cast I think I would have died, from the shock. I don’t know what I would do if Sherwood wouldn’t have come up with the idea.

  2. HT says

    I also LOVE Gilligans Island. I wish I could have met one of the actors, but I never will, I don’t live by California and most of the actors are dead. If I could have met one of them I would have picked Gilligan.

  3. says

    I think MOST actors to day only want them to be the star of the show. But I don’t think Bob was like that, I don’t think he cared a lot about what people thought of him. And that’s one way to tell if a person has a good heart, Bob Denver was thinking of others when he did that. I probably would have done the same thing (if I thought of it.)

  4. Joe says

    Gilligan’s Island was fabulous to me. I have been watching the show forever and I never grow tired. I really think the show is timeless and is a wonderful way to kinda get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The gadgets, the scenery and the inter-action of the cast members was and will forever remain fabulous. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) has actually visited the Elephant Sanctuary here in Hohenwald, Tennessee. I hope someday she returns so that I might meet her and tell her that I loved her role on the “Island” and also have enjoyed using her cookbook.

  5. Lisa says

    Denver was a pretty fair-minded guy. I don’t think he had any input as to contract negotiations not involving him, but by insisting that all be treated equally, Louise had to realize how it would make her look if she didn’t back down from her position as the show’s Diva and let’s face it, Louise was a bombshell but she wasn’t the only bombshell actress available at the time.

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