Dawn Wells of Gilligan's Island

Jill Johnson/JPI

Television loses another star to a terrible virus.

The world is mourning Dawn Wells, who is best known for playing Mary Ann Summers on the television sitcom Gilligan’s Island from 1964 until 1967. She also appeared in numerous spin-off television movies and shows of the same sitcom over the years. Wells died in a nursing home in Los Angeles at the age of 82. News of her death was confirmed by her publicist, Harlan Boll.

I am devastated today. Truly, at the top of the list of hardest things to do is announce the passing of a friend or…

Posted by B Harlan Boll on Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wells was born Dawn Elberta Wells in Reno, Nevada, on October 18, 1938. She was the only child of real estate developer Joe Wesley Wells and Evelyn Wells. Wells went on to originally major in chemistry at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri with the intent of becoming a doctor. However, she later became interested in drama after transferring to The University of Washington in Seattle. She graduated with a degree in theater arts and design in 1960. In 1959 she was named Ms. Nevada, and in 1960 she competed in The Miss America pageant. For the talent portion, she performed a dramatic reading from Sophocles’ Antigone.

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Her screen debut came in 1961 as Gloria in an episode of The Roaring Twenties. She went on to appear on other shows such as 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza and Maverick before landing the role of Kansas farm girl Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. After the sitcom ended she continued to act on a variety of shows, even reprising the character on shows such as Alf, Baywatch, Herman’s Head and Meego. In addition to acting on screen and stage, she authored the books Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook in 1993 and What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, a memoir she co-wrote with Steve Stinson in 2014.

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Dawn Wells guests on B&B

Wells final screen appearances were in a 2018 episode of Kaplan’s Korner, and as a voice actor in the 2019 shortThe Epic Tales of Captain Underpants. She also appeared on the February 18, 2016 episode of Bold & Beautiful. In a news interview at the time, Wells said she was thrilled to have been asked to guest on the CBS soap opera as Alice, a friend of the Forrester family and garment buyer. Wells saw acting on a soap opera as similar to being a stage actress. It was her first, and only appearance on a daytime drama.

Wells was married to agent Larry Rosen from 1962 until 1967. Outside of acting and writing, she was a supporter of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a natural habitat refuge developed for the care of African and Asian elephants. She also created the nonprofit The Idaho Film and Television Institute, which served to instruct interested students in all aspects of film and television production.

Wells is survived by her stepsister, Weslee Wells. We send deepest condolences to Wells’ family and friends.

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Video: 1WMN™