'Gilligan's Island' Star Dawn Wells Broke at Age 79 After Losing Everything


I suspect that most of us have an unrealistic view of Hollywood success. I mean, if you’re anything like me, you understand that actors and actresses struggle on their way to stardom.

But once they’ve achieved cinematic renown, they’re set — right? Well, not always.

Many of those beloved by the camera don’t make anywhere near as much money as you might think. And even when a past role has made them famous, it may not have benefited them much financially.

Just look at one-time starlet Dawn Wells. Best known for her role as the Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” Wells has appeared on television sets for generations thanks to the show’s near-endless syndication run.

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But many forget that “Gilligan’s Island” wasn’t particularly successful, getting canceled after just three seasons. And that trouble seemed to dog Wells herself.

Not that the actress didn’t make the most of her time. According to Fandango, she starred in a number of movies during the 1970s, as well as appearing in a number of “Gilligan’s Island” specials.

But the films failed to wow critics or audiences, and the specials were over all too soon. Wells found herself helming a fashion line geared for senior citizens and the handicapped, worthy work that didn’t bring in big bucks.

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However, the wider world didn’t know the extent of Wells’ fiscal straits until her friend and hairstylist Dugg Kirkpatrick started a GoFundMe campaign on her behalf.

“After 2008, like many of us, Dawn suffered through the banking crash and lost everything including her life savings, in addition to a life-threatening surgery which came close to killing her,” he wrote.

“Dawn was a victim of an unexpected accident that required hospitalization for two months and a very long time to rest and heal. Dawn needs $194,000 to alleviate penalties by the IRS (which are compounded daily) and to pay her hospital costs.”

How far the farm girl had fallen! But a question remained: Would her former fans step up to help her?

It turned out that it didn’t even need to be a question. As of press time, the campaign had raised nearly $75,000 of its $180,000 goal in about 10 days.

“Thanks for making my childhood so much more fun!” Michael O’Leary wrote in the campaign’s comments section.

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Wells herself seems shocked by the outpouring of support. Inside Edition highlighted her thankful Facebook response.

“I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years,” she said. “Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money. I am amazed at the kindness and affection I have received.”

What’s more, her agent told Fox News that all the generosity has left the actress in something of an ethical pickle.

“At this time, it has not yet been decided whether she will return the funds so generously donated by her fans and friends or if it will go into a trust or fund that would help alleviate the previously mentioned issues,” the agent said. “She was caught completely unaware of her well-intended friend’s creation of a GoFundMe page.”

Whatever Wells chooses to do with the money, it’s wonderful to see the positive effect her career clearly had on so many people.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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