Bob Denver (January 9, 1935 – September 2, 2005)
Bob Denver, tv clown best known for his title role in Gilligan’s Island, was born on January 9, 1935 in New Rochelle, New York, U.S.A. He attended Loyola-Marymount University, in Los Angeles, where he was first exposed to acting. At first unsure that he wanted to be an actor, Bob Denver chose that profession over a career in law. Bob was working as a high school teacher and as a part-time mailman while auditioning for various roles. His first “big break” came in 1959, landing the role of the ultimate beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs. He portrayed Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, where he appeared for four years. After playing Maynard G. Krebs, a clownish character with a propensity for verbal humor, he was offered the role for which he is most famous. That of the visual, slapstick humor of the title character of Gilligan’s Island.
As Gilligan, Bob Denver played a very physical brand of comedy, as the well-meaning, none-too-intelligent first mate of the S.S. Minnow, which became stranded on an uncharted desert island (“Gilligan’s Island”, naturally enough) after a storm. The seven castaways then spent the next three years (TV seasons) trying to escape, only to have their efforts spoiled, much of the time by Gilligan’s bungling. Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr., as Gilligan and the Skipper of the boat, created some of the most memorable slapstick on television over that time, a modern-day Laurel and Hardy. After three years and 98 episodes, Gilligan’s Island was canceled. However, it has not been off the air since, due to syndication and re-runs. In addition, the entire series is now available on DVD (Gilligan’s Island season 1, Gilligan’s Island season 2, and Gilligan’s Island season 3 logically enough). Despite critical disdain, Gilligan’s Island was a rating success and led to the typecasting of Bob Denver and his cast mates.
After Gilligan’s Island, Bob Denver continued to work, co-starring in a few movies in the late 1960’s and making another series, The Good Guys from 1969-1970. This was unsuccessful, as was Dusty’s Trail (1973). Dusty’s Trail was essentially a remake of Gilligan’s Island set in the old West. Three episodes of Dusty’s Trail were edited together to make the film The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West (1976). However, Bob had begun to grow bored with television. He began performing dinner theater and acting on Broadway, filling in for Woody Allen in Play it Again, Sam
Bob Denver returned to his most famous role as Willy Gilligan in the cartoon The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-1977). He also starred in a short-lived children’s series, Far Out Space Nuts. But Gilligan was unable to leave Bob alone, starting with Rescue from Gilligan’s Island (1978), The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island (1979), and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (1981). All of which were attempts to start a new weekly series of Gilligan’s Island, which never took off the ground. Bob Denver had a long string of guest appearances on television series as well, such as Alf, Roseanne, Baywatch, Fantasy Island, I Dream of Jeanie, The Love Boat, and many others.
In recent years, he wrote the book Gilligan, Maynard & Me, continued to be active on the stage, and co-starred with his fourth wife, Dreama, on an oldies radio show, Weekend with Denver & Denver as well as working with Dreama on his official website – Bob Denver’s Gilligan Fan Club. In May of 2005, Bob Denver had quadruple bypass surgery, and it was subsequently discovered that he had cancer. He died at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital in North Carolina on September 2, 2005, surrounded by his family — Dreama, his wife of 28 years, and his children Patrick, Megan, Emily, and Colin.
Trivia about Bob Denver
- Frequently wears the white fishing cap that he wore as Gilligan.
- Graduated from Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles, with a degree in Political Science.
- His future co-star on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Dwayne Hickman, was a classmate at Loyola-Marymount.
- Used to work for the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman and as a grammar school teacher.
- Bob Denver suffered a broken neck in 1956, which prevented him from getting inducted in the U.S. Army.
- In real life, Bob Denver is diametrically opposite of the well-known inept and goofy characters he has portrayed on television. He is an enormously talented, introverted, and well-read man who loves children, especially his own.
- Bob Denver often went out of his way to help his fellow cast members on “Gilligan’s Island” . This is included trying to give Dawn Wells an equal share of publicity as Tina Louise. Also demanding that she and Russell Johnson be given an equal credit in the show’s title sequence.
- Bob Denver was born just one day after Elvis Presley.
Bibliography for Bob Denver
- Inside Gilligan’s Island : A Three-Hour Tour Through The Making Of A Television Classic by Sherwood Schwartz
- Gilligan, Maynard & Me by Bob Denver
- Gilligan’s Dreams: The Other Side of the Island, written by Dreama Denver, Bob’s widow