The actor best known for his role as “The Professor” on the 1960’s television series “Gilligan’s Island” has passed away.
Russell Johnson who early on in his acting career was making a living playing the bad guy in the movies and television was born on Nov. 10, 1924, near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the oldest of six children. He would serve in the Army Air Forces during World War II, winning a Purple Heart. After leaving the military Johnson enrolled at the Actors Lab in Hollywood under the GI Bill.
His first film role was in 1952 “For Men Only,” playing a sadistic fraternity leader. That role would lead to a contract with Universal, which led to roles in a series of movies, mainly westerns. Later he would begin appearing frequently on television, again in western playing the role of the bad guy.
In 1964 “Gilligan’s Island” starring Bob Denver as Gilligan, the well-meaning, but clumsy first mate of the S.S. Minnow, a small tour boat that runs aground on an uncharted island after a storm came along and Johnson would be cast as high school science teacher Roy Hinkley, aka the Professor.
As the Professor he was always inventing methods to help increase the castaways’ chances of being rescued. Even with the show’s many lapses of logic often mentioned by Mr. Johnson during interviews that the Professor could build a short-wave radio out of coconut shells, but couldn’t find a way to patch a hole in the Minnow.
After “Gilligan’s Island” was cancelled in 1967, Johnson made guest appearances on a variety of television shows during the 1970’s and 80’s including reprising his role as “The Professor” in 1978’s “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island”.
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summer, the loveable farm girl from Kansas now only one of two remaining original cast members left, the other being Tina Louise who played movie star Ginger Grant.
Wells On her Facebook account shared this post:
“Russell was a true gentleman, a good father, a great friend, and “the rest”. I love him and shall miss him. My heart goes out to Connie and his daughter Kim. I love you.”
Russell Johnson died Thursday morning at his home in Washington State of natural causes. He was 89. He leaves behind a wife and daughter.