Dawn Wells in the 1970s
|Born:||October 18, 1938|
|Birthplace:||Reno, Nevada, U.S.|
|Died:||December 30, 2020 (aged 82)|
|Deathplace:||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Also known for:||"Gilligan's Island"|
|Character played:||Mary Ann Summers|
Dawn Wells was an American television actress and author, best known for the role of Mary Ann Summers on "Gilligan's Island," a sweet naïve country girl reportedly modeled after Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" and a well-meaning clerk from Winfield, Kansas. Her character is usually described as gentle, kind and exceptionally warmhearted.
Born Dawn Elberta Wells on October 18, 1938 in Reno, Nevada, she attended Reno High School and later attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in chemistry. She later transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design.
Wells was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and represented her state in the Miss America 1960 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The experience possibly gave her a boost in her acting career, leading to her debut in the film, "The Roaring 20s." she went on to perform in over 66 theatrical productions, including the National Touring Company of "They're Playing Our Song!" She did countless of voice-overs, commercials and talk shows. She worked for the Australian news show "Midday" and interviewed such talents as Julia Roberts, Eddie Murphy and Tom Hanks, to name a few. Dawn also had great success as a producer and has a number of television movies to her credit. She had a new project in the works for release in 2005. Along the way, she appeared in numerous guest roles on other successful TV shows since the 1960's, such as "Wagon Train," "Bonanza," "Hawaiian Eye," "The Invaders," "The Wild Wild West," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" and "Roseanne." After "Gilligan's Island," she played versions of Mary Ann on "Alf" and "Baywatch."
Wells did not seem to mind her role as Mary Ann as much as Tina Louise had with Ginger and seemed to embrace it in her later endeavors. In 1993, she wrote "Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook", a compilation of various castaway-related recipes. Shortly before his death in 1990, Alan Hale, Jr. contributed "Skipper's Coconut Pie," "Skipper's Navy Bean Soup," and "Skipper's Goodbye Ribeye" to the book, which was then a work in progress.
After years of touring and performing in dramas, comedies, and musical theatre, Dawn slowed down a bit and founded the Dawn Wells' Film Actors Boot Camp in Driggs, Idaho in 1998 which she ran for much of her life. The camp was intended for already trained actors looking to make the transition from the amateur to the professional actor. In 2003, Dawn did tours of the plays "Love Letters" with Adam West and Eve Ensler's Award Winning "The Vagina Monologues." In early 2004, Dawn established and founded "The Spud Film Institute" in Idaho and Wyoming and held the first ever "Spud Drive in Film and Music Festival," of which she served as the artistic director, in the summer of 2004.
In 2008, Wells came to Los Angeles to join Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan's Island for the celebration of Schwartz's entry into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also had her own clothing line for the physically challenged called "Wishing Wells Collections" and she recently launched her own skincare line, "Classic Beauty." She also mentored young actors and travels to colleges all across the United States to teach "Master Classes."
Sadly, Wells passed away on December 30, 2020 due to COVID-19 complications;. She was 82.