Herbie J Pilato Reflects on Dawn “Mary Ann” Wells

Forever Mary Ann
by Herbie J Pilato

“By the dawn’s early light…”

How fitting that such a musical patriotic pledge of allegiance would include even the slightest reference to the first name of an actress who for decades represented the All-American dream girl.

Dawn Wells, who died at 82 from complications of Covid-19 on December 30, 2020, was from day one as American as apple pie, or more specifically, of the Coconut Cream of the crop selection. That was her dessert of choice when playing the beloved castaway Mary Ann Summers on the TV classic Gilligan’s Island, which originally ran on CBS from 1964 to 1967.

With an earnest charm from an era gone by, Wells portrayed the farm fatale minus any disaster. Her peaches and cream complexion, combined with pig-tails, polka-dot shirt, short-shorts, and a bright and big heart, will always be a welcome presence in living rooms, or on any accessible mobile device.

A native of Reno, Wells was crowned Miss Nevada in 1959 and went on to compete in the 1960 Miss America pageant. Though a chemistry major at Stephens College in Missouri, she switched gears and earned a Theatre Arts degree from the University of Washington. Shortly after, she moved to Hollywood and made TV appearances on Bonanza, Maverick, The Joey Bishop Show and 77 Sunset Strip, and more.

Then came Gilligan’s Island, during which she married agent Larry Rosen. But the show and the marriage only lasted three years…

Read it all at emmys.com


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of the TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime and the author of several pop-culture/media tie-in books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for over 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE