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Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, Dies at 82

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Dawn Wells, who starred as Mary Ann Summers on the beloved 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island has passed away at the age of 82. Wells was born on October 18, 1938 in Reno, Nevada. Before fully beginning her acting career, Wells graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in theater arts and design. Her education served her well, as she went on to star in dozens of projects over her long life. In the early 1960s, she guest-starred on shows like Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and Bonanza.

Despite her many roles, Gilligan's Island is undoubtedly what Wells will be remembered for. She starred in all 98 episodes of the series, which aired from 1964-67. Gilligan's Island followed a group of seven castaways after they were marooned on an island. The series was a hit for CBS throughout its run, with many enjoying Wells' performance. In many ways, her Mary Ann was the beating heart of Gilligan's Island, helping to keep the other characters' spirits up. Surprisingly, Mary Ann was not in the show's original pilot, though it's now impossible to imagine it without her, and by extension, Wells.

Per Variety, Wells' death was announced by publicist Harlan Boll on Wednesday. The actor passed away in Los Angeles due to complications stemming from COVID-19. Wells is survived by her stepsister, Weslee.

After Gilligan's Island ended, Wells remained proud of her work on the series. She returned for several related projects, including the cartoon Gilligan's Planet. Wells also starred in three reunion movies for the series: Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. She last played Mary Ann in a 1992 episode of Baywatch, but starred in several other projects as different characters in the late '90s and 2000s. Her last onscreen performance was a 2016 episode of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. However, Wells also lent her voice to the animated television series The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants in 2019.

Wells was also well known for her work in theater, appearing in dozens of productions over the years. Outside of her acting career, she was beloved for her charitable efforts. Wells ran Wishing Wells Collections for several years, which made clothes for those with limited mobility. She also founded an educational organization called the Idaho Film and Television Institute. Though Wells will be remembered as a television icon for her role on Gilligan's Island, it's clear the way she lived her life offscreen was an inspiration to many as well.


R.I.P. Dawn Wells: October 18, 1938 - December 30, 2020
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