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'Gilligan's Island' star Russell Johnson dies at 89
Russell Johnson, the actor best known for playing the Professor in "Gilligan's Island," has died.

January 16, 2014


ABC News confirmed with the actor's wife, Constance, that the 89-year-old TV star died early this morning of kidney failure.

"He died at home, peaceful, in his sleep at 5:21 am today," she said. "[He was] a very brave guy who knew what he wanted, and he wanted to be at home."

Johnson was born on November 10, 1924, in Ashley, in Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania, just south of Wilkes-Barre. He was a graduate of Girard College, a private boarding school for orphaned children in Philadelphia

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Gilligan's Island. The show aired from 1964 to 1967. It also inspired spinoffs and several TV movies in the 1970s. A new feature film based on the series is reported to be in the works.

Actresses Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, wrote on Facebook, ""My 2 favorite people are now gone. The Professor past away this morning. My heart is broken."

Tina Louise, who played Ginger, is the only other surviving members of the original cast.

Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, Johnson served in World War II before pursuing an acting career. He acted in several TV programs in the 1950s and '60s, including "The Adventures of Superman," "Alfred Hitchcok Presents" and "The Twilight Zone." However, his most famous role came along in 1964: The Professor on "Gilligan's Island."

Afterward, he appeared in several films and TV shows, including an episode of "Newhart" in which he was shown watching an episode of "Gilligan's Island."

Johnson, a Washington resident, leaves behind his wife and a daughter, Kim.

Movie and television career
He became a close friend of Audie Murphy and later appeared with him in three of his films, Column South and Tumbleweed in 1953 and Ride Clear of Diablo in 1954. Johnson's Hollywood career began in 1952, with the college fraternity hazing exposť For Men Only, and with Loan Shark, also released in 1952 and starring George Raft. His early roles were primarily in westerns such as Law and Order (opposite Ronald Reagan), and science fiction such as It Came from Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956), and The Space Children (1958). He also appeared in a Ma and Pa Kettle vehicle, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki (1955).

During the 1950s, he guest starred on Rod Cameron's syndicated crime drama City Detective. He played the head of a gang of crooks in episode 17 of season 1 of The Adventures of Superman (originally broadcast in January, 1953, filmed in 1951). He was cast on the religion anthology series Crossroads. He also played "The Sundown Kid" in an episode of the 1958 NBC western series Jefferson Drum and guest starred in another NBC western series, The Californians.[

Late in 1958, Johnson and Joe Flynn were cast in the episode "The Bells of Fear" of the syndicated adventure series, Rescue 8, starring Jim Davis and Lang Jeffries. In the story line, an elderly clockmaker trying to repair the chimes in a church clock is trapped inside the instrument on Christmas Eve.[3]

Johnson was cast in the role of Darius in the 1959 episode "The Unwilling" of the NBC western series Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds. In the story line, businessman Dan Simpson, played by Eddie Albert, attempts to open a general store in the American West despite a raid from Mississippi River pirates who stole $20,000 in merchandise from him. Debra Paget played Lela Russell.

Johnson appeared three times on the syndicated military drama The Silent Service, based on actual stories of the submarine section of the United States Navy. Johnson was cast as Hugh Grafton and as Tom Richards in two 1960 episodes, "Intermission" and "The Desperate Challenge", both with June Allyson on her CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Johnson was cast as John T. Metcalf in the 1962 episode "Mile-Long Shot to Kill" of CBS's anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. In 1963, he was cast in an episode of the short-lived ABC/Warner Brothers western series The Dakota. Later in that same year, he was cast in the series premiere of the ABC medical drama Breaking Point, starring Paul Richards and Eduard Franz.

Black Saddle
From 1959 to 1960, Johnson had a recurring role as Marshal Gib Scott on the ABC half-hour western series Black Saddle, with Peter Breck as the gunslinger-turned-lawyer Clay Culhane, Anna-Lisa as Nora Travers, J. Pat O'Malley as Judge Caleb Marsh, and Walter Burke as Tim Potter.

Twilight Zone episodes
Johnson appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone. His character attempted to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in "Back There". He appeared as a college professor in the episode "Execution". The plot of both episodes involved time travel from the 20th to the 19th centuries.

Outer Limits episode
He appeared as a crew member on a U.S. space station in "Specimen: Unknown".

"The Professor" on Gilligan's Island
He was best known for playing the handsome Professor Roy Hinkley (usually referred to as "The Professor"), the very knowledgeable polymath who could build all sorts of inventions out of the most rudimentary materials available on the island, but, as Johnson himself pointed out, could not fix the hole in the boat. Gilligan's Island aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns continuously ever since.

After Gilligan's Island
After Gilligan's Island, he appeared in several other movies and television shows, especially the latter. He appeared in several dramatic series, including The Invaders, Death Valley Days, Lassie, Ironside, The F.B.I, and Gunsmoke. He appeared perhaps most notably in the miniseries Vanished, based on a novel by Fletcher Knebel (1971), uncredited in the Robert Redford spy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975), and on the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara.

In an interview with Starlog magazine in the early 1980s, Johnson said that he had wanted to appear in the original Star Trek during its run on NBC from 1966 to 1969, but he was never cast. An episode of CBS's Newhart featured the Beavers (a men's organization) watching a Gilligan's Island episode on television. When they are suddenly evicted from the room, one of them, portrayed by Johnson, protests, "I want to see how it ends!" He is assured that the castaways don't get off the island.

Johnson played the sheriff in several episodes of season 9 of Dallas; his character did not return in season 10, however, as season 9 turned out to be the infamous "dream season".

Johnson entertained fans at the 1996 MST3K ContevtioConExpoFest-a-Rama 2: Electric Boogaloo on the "Celebrity Panel". Johnson was invited for his role in the movie-within-a-movie of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, This Island Earth, but spent most of the time answering questions about his Gilligan's Island days. He shared an amusing anecdote:[citation needed]

I was at a speaking engagement for MIT ... and I said ... the Professor has all sorts of degrees, including one from this very institution [MIT]! And that's why I can make a radio out of a coconut, and not fix a hole in a boat!
óRussell Johnson

Johnson also had a brief appearance in MacArthur, in which he played United States Navy Admiral Ernest J. King. Russell provided the narration for the animated short episodes of The Adventures of Stevie and Zoya that appeared on MTV during the mid-1980s.[citation needed]

Johnson once participated in the Ig Nobel award presentation ceremony, credited as "The Professor Emeritus of Gilligan's Island".






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