Russell Johnson, 'The Professor' on 'Gilligan's Island,' dies at 89

Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:24pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Will Dunham

(Reuters) - Russell Johnson, the veteran character actor who appeared in science fiction films and Westerns before earning enduring fame as "The Professor" on the classic 1960s sitcom "Gilligan's Island," died on Thursday at the age of 89, his agent said.

"He died at 5:21 a.m. of natural causes at home in Washington state," agent Michael Eisenstadt said, adding that Johnson's wife and his daughter were at his side.

"Gilligan's Island," which was created by producer Sherwood Schwartz, ran for three seasons on the CBS network, from 1964 to 1967, and attracted even more popularity in syndication.

"I worked with him for over 20 years. He was a gentleman, a great guy and a family man, an iconic figure," Eisenstadt said. "In the history of television ‘Gilligan's Island' was one of the most re-run shows. He'll be missed. He was old-time Hollywood."

Actress Dawn Wells, who played the perky Mary Ann Summers in the show, posted a photograph on Facebook of herself along with Johnson and Bob Denver, who starred as the zany Gilligan and died in 2005.

"My 2 favorite people are now gone. The Professor past away this morning. My heart is broken," she wrote.

The show followed four men and three women stranded on a tropical island after being shipwrecked on the S.S. Minnow. Johnson, a decorated World War Two veteran who was a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator shot down over the Philippines in 1945, played Professor Roy Hinkley, simply called "The Professor."

Johnson had appeared in Westerns including "Law and Order" (1953) starring future President Ronald Reagan and sci-fi films including "It Came from Outer Space" (1953), "This Island Earth" (1955) and "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957).   Continued...

Dawn Wells, Bob Denver and Russell Johnson (L-R), cast members in "Gilligan's Island," pose during a launch party for "Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Season," which will debut on DVD February 3, 2004 in Marina Del Rey, California. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen