The Only Major Actors Still Alive From Gilligan's Island

Sherwood Schwartz's 1963 sitcom "Gilligan's Island" was a high-concept series that, thanks to the gods of syndication, remained in the public consciousness for decades after it went off the air. The show's impeccable theme song, written by Schwartz and George Wyle, may be the best theme in television history, as it handily explains the premise using a hummable sea shanty: five tourists (Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Dawn Wells, Tina Louise, and Russell Johnson) boarded the S.S. Minnow — manned by Captain Jonas Grumby (Alan Hale) and his first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver) — for a three-hour tour off the coast of Honolulu. When the tiny ship hit some bad weather, the seven characters landed on a desert island, stranded. The series followed their merry attempts to survive. 

"Gilligan's Island" ran for 98 episodes, ending its initial run in 1967, but reruns continued to air well into the 1990s. Yes, there was a time when "Gilligan's Island" was a reliable TV staple, occupying the same space as "I Love Lucy," "The Twilight Zone" and "Law & Order." It was followed by several spinoffs, including the animated shows "The New Adventures of Gilligan" in 1975 and "Gilligan's Planet" in 1982. The cast also reunited for four TV movies in 1978, 1979, and 1981 (when the Castaways met the Harlem Globetrotters), as well as a biographical documentary in 2001, featuring re-enactments of the show's early days using new actors. 

"Gilligan's Island" has been parodied endlessly, having been referenced in other sitcoms (some of the original cast appeared on "Alf") and it was even the subject of a "Weird Al" Yankovic song. It has been adapted to video games, pinball, and trading cards. 

However, of the show's ensemble cast, only one actress remains with us. 

Tina Louise (Ginger)

Backus passed away in 1989, Hale in 1990, Schafer in 1991, Denver in 2005, Johnson in 2014, and Wells in 2020. Tina Louise remains the only member of the main cast still alive in 2024. She will celebrate her 90th birthday on February 11, 2024.

Louise played Ginger Grant, described in the opening theme song as "the movie star." Ginger was a polymath on the Island, happy to gossip about her friendships with other movie stars, but could also give out hair and makeup advice. Every so often, it was implied that Ginger and the Professor (Johnson) were engaged in a love affair, although their relationship rarely made it beyond the realm of romantic tension. 

Prior to "Gilligan's," Louise caused a stir with her debut performance in the 1958 drama "God's Little Acre" which netted her a Golden Globe nomination. She played the poet Sappho in the 1960 peplum film "The Warrior Empress," and appeared in the Matt Helm film "The Wrecking Crew." After "Gilligan's," Louise continued to work steadily, and gave a notable performance in the 1975 sci-fi feminist nightmare "The Stepford Wives." She had small parts in the 1990s oddities "Johnny Suede" and "Welcome to Woop Woop." Her final film performance was in a 2019 film called "Tapestry."

Louise released a musical album in 1958 and has performed on stage. Just like Ginger, Louise was hardworking and versatile, happy to play complex characters or sexbombs as the script demanded. 

Not wanting to be typecast, Louise did not return to play Ginger for the 1978 "Gilligan's" TV movie, being replaced by Judith Baldwin. In 1981, Ginger was played by Constance Forslund, and for "Gilligan's Planet," her co-star, Dawn Wells, stepped in. But even so, Louise never resented her "Gilligan's" role, loving the part and the fame it brought her.