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Dawn Wells
Dawn Wells Gilligan's Island 1964.jpg
Wells as Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island in 1964
Dawn Elberta Wells

(1938-10-18)October 18, 1938
Died December 30, 2020(2020-12-30) (aged 82)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1961–2019
Larry Rosen
(m. 1962; div. 1967)

Dawn Elberta Wells (October 18, 1938 – December 30, 2020) was an American actress who became known for her role as Mary Ann Summers on the CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island.

Early life

Wells was born in Reno, Nevada, where she attended Reno High School. Her father owned a local Reno shipping company called "Wells Cargo". After high school graduation, Wells attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in chemistry. She transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design. She was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.


In 1959, Wells was crowned Miss Nevada and represented her state in the Miss America 1960 pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In Hollywood, Wells made her debut on ABC's The Roaring 20s and the movie The New Interns and was cast in episodes of such television series as The Joey Bishop Show, 77 Sunset Strip, The Cheyenne Show, Maverick, and Bonanza, before she took the role of Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island. She reprised her character in the various Gilligan's Island reunion specials, including the reunion cartoon spin-off Gilligan's Planet and three reunion movies: Rescue from Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island, and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.

She also appeared as a guest star on many other TV series and appeared in a few movies.

Dawn Wells 1975
Wells 1975 press release

Following Gilligan's Island, Wells embarked on a theater career, appearing in nearly one hundred theatrical productions as of July 2009. She spent the majority of the 1970s, and 1980s, touring in musical theater productions. She also had a one-woman show at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1985.

In 1993, Wells published Mary Ann's Gilligan's Island Cookbook with co-writers Ken Beck and Jim Clark, including a foreword by Bob Denver.

In 2005, Wells consigned her original gingham blouse and shorts ensemble for sale from her signature role. Beverly Hills auction house Profiles in History sold it for $20,700.

In 2014, Wells released What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, which she co-wrote with Steve Stinson. The book was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gilligan's Island.

In May 2016, Wells was named Marketing Ambassador to MeTV Network. In January 2019, she promoted the Gilligan's Island television series on the MeTV television network.

Her last role was as as Gumbalina Toothington in 2019 in "The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants" - "The Ghastly Danger of the Ghost Dentist".

Humanitarian and charity work

Dawn Wells 2015
Wells in 2015

For several years, Wells operated a business, Wishing Wells Collections, making clothing for people with limited mobility. She was the founder of the Idaho Film and Television Institute, a not-for-profit (501c3) educational organization with "a vision of education, technical training and economic development in Southeastern Idaho." She organized SpudFest, a regional annual family movie festival, and was a spokeswoman for Idaho Potatoes.

Wells lent her support to the Denver Foundation, a West Virginia charity chaired by Dreama Denver, widow of Wells' Gilligan’s Island co-star Bob Denver. In November 2009, she appeared at the Denver Foundation's Christmas Wish Celebrity Auction, helping to raise funds for the disabled and disadvantaged in West Virginia.

Personal life and death

Wells married Larry Rosen, a talent agent, in 1962. The couple had no children and were divorced in 1967.

In 2018, a GoFundMe page was set up to help Wells cope with financial trouble.

Wells died on December 30, 2020 at the age of 82 in Los Angeles, due to COVID-19 complications.

Her death leaves Tina Louise as the only survivor of the original Gilligan's Island regular cast.

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