Obituary: Gilligan's Island 'professor' Russell Johnson dies, aged 89

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 10:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 1:30am


Actor Russell Johnson, who became known to generations of TV fans as "The Professor", the fix-it man who kept his fellow
Gilligan's Island castaways supplied with gadgets, has died. He was 89.

Johnson died on Thursday morning at his home in Washington state of natural causes.

Johnson was a busy but little-known character actor when he was cast in the slapstick 1960s comedy about seven people who were marooned on an uncharted Pacific island.

He played high school science teacher Roy Hinkley, known to his fellow castaways as The Professor. There was seemingly nothing he couldn't do when it came to building generators, short-wave radios and other contraptions from scraps of flotsam and jetsam he found on the island. But, as Russell would joke years later, the one thing The Professor never accomplished was figuring out how to patch the hole in the bottom of the SS Minnow so the group could get back to civilisation. During its three-season run on CBS, critics repeatedly lambasted the show as insipid. But after its cancellation in 1967, it found generations of new fans in reruns and reunion movies.

In a 2004 interview, Johnson analysed the show's lasting appeal.

"Parents are happy to have their children watch it," he said. "No one gets hurt. No murders. No car crashes. Just good, plain, silly fun - that's the charm."

He admitted he had trouble finding work after
Gilligan's Island, having become typecast as the egg-headed professor. But he harboured no resentment for the show, and in later years he and other cast members, including Bob Denver, who had played the bumbling first mate Gilligan, appeared at fan conventions.

Dawn Wells and Tina Louise are the last of the cast's survivors. Wells played vacationing farm girl Mary Ann Summers and Louise sexy movie star Ginger Grant.

"Russell was a true gentleman, a dear friend with a fantastic wit, and a wonderful actor," Wells said.

Gilligan's Island, Johnson had appeared in dozens of films and television shows.

Associated Press