Five Fun Facts About Gilligan’s Island

In September of 1964, the S.S. Minnow first set out on its fateful three hour tour, as Gilligan’s Island premiered on American television sets. Not many could have predicted the impact that the sitcom would have on pop culture. The Sherwood Schwartz creation was like a living cartoon, which was part of its charm and appeal.

The Retro Network’s own A Very Brady Podcast is now covering the classic show episode by episode. In celebration of this launch, here are a few fun facts about the show you may not know.

The flag is at half-mast in the opening credits because of the Kennedy assassination

The pilot for the series was filmed over several days in November of 1963 on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The last day of shooting was scheduled for November 23, 1963, in Honolulu Harbor for the scenes showing the S.S. Minnow embarking on its fateful three-hour tour. Late in the morning on November 22, a crew member ran to the set and announced that he’d just heard on the radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. As Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President, it was announced that all military installations (including Honolulu Harbor) would be closed for the next two days as a period of mourning. 

There is a subtle reminder of this historical incident seen in the series. In the opening credits of the first season, as the Minnow pulls out of the harbor, the United States flag can be seen flying at half-mast.

The Island Was Probably 20 Miles SE of Hawaii

Three somewhat specific locations are given throughout the three seasons. In “‘X’ Marks the Spot,” the island’s is said to be approximately 140º latitude by 10º longitude. (Which are impossible coordinates.) Later, in the episode “Big Man on a Little Stick,” their position is stated as approximately 110º longitude by 10º latitude. (Assuming that to be negative 110º, that would put the island a ways off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Finally, in “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane,” the U.S. Navy spots Gilligan flying over the island in a jet pack. They give the location as 250 miles south of Hawaii. So, 10º latitude, -140º longitude would make the most sense for that location.

The lagoon was located in Studio City California

The lagoon set was specially built for the show by CBS on their Studio City lot in 1964. They’d originally tried filming two episodes in Malibu, but they had a lot of downtime due to fog. Of course, filming at the studio had its own set of problems; sometimes filming had to be halted when traffic noise could be heard from the nearby Ventura Freeway. And the water temperature would hover around 40 degrees during the winter months, forcing Bob Denver to wear a wetsuit under his Gilligan costume. In 1995, the lagoon was turned into an employee parking lot.

Dawn Wells is the only cast member who still receives royalties from the show

All of the actors signed contracts that guaranteed them a certain amount of money per original episode plus a residual payment for the first five repeats of each episode. This was a pretty standard contract in 1965, when as a rule most TV shows were only rerun during the summer months as a placeholder between seasons.

Even though the word “syndication” wasn’t yet a standard term in the TV production glossary, Dawn Wells’ then-husband, talent agent Larry Rosen, advised her to ask for an amendment to that residual clause in her contract, and the producers granted it, never thinking the series would be on the air nearly 50 years later. As a result, Dawn Wells is the only star of the show who still receives money from it.

There was a western knock off of Gilligan’s Island called Dusty’s Trail

After Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz hit the jackpot again with The Brady Bunch. However, the third time was not a charm. In 1974, he attempted to recreate Gilligan’s Island in a wild west setting. The result was Dusty’s Trail, which also starred Bob Denver alongside Forrest Tucker of F Troop fame. The wagon train also included a rich couple, a brainiac, a farm girl and showgirl. The show tanked after one season, though four episodes were stitched together to make the theatrical release The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West.

Myeb you learned something here you didn’t already know, and you’ll akways learn something new while listening to A Very Brady Podcast’s coverage of every episode of Gilligan’s Island!

About Mickey Yarber 235 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Sometimes referred to as the Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via my Retro Ramblings column.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply