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Russell Johnson, who played professor on TV's 'Gilligan's Island' dies at 89

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
1/16/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Actor played western bad guys until big break with series

The TV series was an unmitigated flop - except with the TV-watching public, who eagerly watched the series in syndication. Seven extremely diverse people wash up on a desert island and have the expected personality clashes and pratfalls. Russell Johnson, who played the voice of reason as the Professor on "Gilligan's Island" has died at the age of 89 from liver failure.

As actor Russell Johnson would say frequently in later interviews, although the Professor on 'Gilligan's Island' could build a shortwave radio out of a coconut shell, he couldn't figure out how to patch a hole in a boat hull.

As actor Russell Johnson would say frequently in later interviews, although the Professor on "Gilligan's Island" could build a shortwave radio out of a coconut shell, he couldn't figure out how to patch a hole in a boat hull.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
1/16/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in TV

Keywords: Russell Johnson, Gilligan's Island, TV, movies, death, actor


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Besides inept first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver) and the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.), the others included movie star Ginger (Tina Louise), wealthy couple Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) and his wife, "Lovey" (Natalie Schafer) and Mary Ann, a girl-next-door type played by Dawn Wells.

Russell played the taciturn and serious Professor, who was able to fashion almost everything out of coconuts and bamboo shoots - save for a ship to leave the island. As Johnson would say frequently in later interviews, although the Professor could build a shortwave radio out of a coconut shell, he couldn't figure out how to patch a hole in a boat hull.
 
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Running from CBS from 1964 to 1967, "Gilligan's Island" had a long life in syndication. The show was not a critical success and was frequently cited as symbolic of the "vast wasteland" that was television. A closely guarded bit of TV trivia was that the professor's real name was Dr. Roy Hinkley.

Johnson was born in 1924, near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the oldest of six children. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, winning a Purple Heart. After his discharge from the armed services, he studied on the G.I. Bill at the Actors' Laboratory in Hollywood.

Russell became a fixture in westerns, such as "Law and Order," in which he played Ronald Reagan's no-good brother and science fiction films, including "It Came from Outer Space."

His connection to science-fiction was also linked to his two appearances in "The Twilight Zone" involving time travel. In one, he tries to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; in the other, about a time machine that accidentally rescues a 19th-century murderer from a hanging, he plays the inventor, a professor.

It's believed that director Jack Arnold, who directed Russell in "It came from Outer Space," recommended him for the role of the professor in "Gilligan's Island."

Johnson died in his sleep at his Washington home. He is survived by a wife and his daughter.

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