One 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?